Dutch PM Rutte in Sofia: More work needed before Bulgaria can join Schengen

Visiting Sofia on February 6, Netherlands prime minister Mark Rutte expressed support for Bulgaria joining the EU’s Schengen visa zone, but noted that there were still work to be done before it was ready.

Rutte was hosted by his Bulgarian counterpart Boiko Borissov, whose country holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2018.

Bulgaria joined the EU in January 2007 but, like Romania that joined the bloc at the same time, remains outside the Schengen zone. The Netherlands, currently in the stewardship of Rutte’s centre-right coalition government, has been among the most adamant opponents of Bulgaria joining Schengen, citing inadequate efforts against organised crime and corruption.

“We are in favour of Bulgaria joining Schengen and we appreciate the efforts that have been made, but we want a bit more work from all stakeholders, including Bulgaria,” Rutte said after his talks with Borissov.

The Dutch prime minister congratulated Borissov on his “leadership that is leading Bulgaria to further prosperity”.

“Bulgaria is one of the fastest-growing economies in the EU, and that is something that you are managing to maintain,” Rutte said, also praising Bulgaria as a key player in the region.

“Bulgaria’s role in the future of Europe is extremely important,” Rutte said.

He said that he was pleased that Bulgaria would take active steps regarding a position on EU migration policy.

“We all need to achieve a good balance in terms of solidarity, with everyone playing a role with regard to asylum seekers. We have to pay attention to the root of the problems, as Boiko Borissov has said many times,” Rutte said.

Borissov told reporters at the joint news conference: “I believe that we will persuade the Dutch parliament to support us about Schengen”.

He said that the Netherlands was the number one investor in Bulgaria, and “that means we have the full confidence of Dutch business”.

“We have to finish our homework in the fight against contraband, they have to catch up with us in this regard, we should have full confidence and even more investors coming to Bulgaria,” Borissov said.



The Sofia Globe staff

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