The European Parliament voted on December 11 to call on the European Council to admit Bulgaria and Romania to the EU’s Schengen visa zone.
The vote was 514 in favour, 107 against and with 38 abstentions.
A report presented by Bulgarian socialist MEP Sergei Stanishev said that the two countries had met all the necessary conditions for admission to the Schengen visa zone in 2011.
The report said that it “regrets the fact that in the seven years since, the Council has failed to take a decision on the full application of the Schengen acquis in Bulgaria and Romania despite the repeated calls to this end by both the Commission and Parliament”.
It said that it considers the proposal for splitting the abolition of checks at internal borders into two legal acts in order to set different timeframes for the abolition of checks at land, sea and air borders a significant departure from the text of the draft Council decision of September 29 2010 approved by the European Parliament.
A two-step approach could negatively impact the future enlargement of the Schengen area, it said.
The report welcomed the adoption of the European Council decision of October 2017 granting Bulgaria and Romania passive access to the Visa Information System and the Council’s proposal for the full application of the remaining provisions of the Schengen acquis relating to the Schengen Information System in both countries.
However, it “regretted” the fact that these decisions had not come in 2011, but had been an ad hoc measure to ensure compliance with the preconditions for the implementation of the Entry/Exit System, expected to be operational by 2020.
The report hit out at linking the two countries’ Schengen accession to the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, the system put in place when Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007, to help bring them up to EU justice and home affairs standards.
It called on the European Council to present a new decision on the two countries joining Schengen “as soon as possible and, by means of a single legal act, take an immediate decision for the abolition of checks at internal land, sea and air borders”.
The report also called on the European Council “to apply the same approach to Croatia and confirm the country’s full accession to the Schengen area as soon as it has successfully completed the Schengen evaluation process and the relevant criteria have been met”.
In debate on December 10, Stanishev said that it was unfair to couple Bulgaria and Romania joining Schengen with the CVM process.
The December 11 2018 vote by the European Parliament is similar to five previous ones on the issue. It has no legal force, because a decision on admitting Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen requires a unanimous decision by the European Council. Given that some EU countries link Schengen admission to progress under the CVM, such a decision has not been forthcoming.