Bulgaria and Romania were not ready to join the Schengen visa-free travel area in 2012, German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said in an interview published on August 3.
“I believe open borders for Romania and Bulgaria are impossible at this point in time,” Friedrich was told Rheinische Post newspaper, as quoted by Bulgarian news agency BTA.
The Netherlands has been the biggest opponent of Schengen zone membership for EU’s two most recent addition – Romania and Bulgaria joined the bloc together in January 2007. Germany and France have been more supportive, proposing a two-step plan of opening the two countries’ air and sea ports, but postponing a decision on land borders.
Friedrich was quoted as saying that he was strongly in favour of sticking to the two-step procedure, but was sceptical whether the first stage could be implemented in 2012.
Despite meeting all technical criteria for membership before the March 2011 deadline, the two countries’ accession to the Schengen agreement has been blocked by the Netherlands, which raised concerns over the Bulgaria and Romania’s efforts to fight organised crime. Unanimous approval from Schengen area countries is necessary to admit new members to the club.
Schengen membership has been a key policy objective for the Government of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov in Sofia since taking office in July 2009.