Bulgaria and Romania will continue to remain outside the Schengen visa zone after failing to win unanimous support at a December 8 meeting of the European Union’s Justice and Home Affairs committee, according to a report from Brussels by Bulgarian National Television.
However, the EU ministers approved Croatia joining the Schengen visa zone as of January 1 2023.
There were 25 votes out of 27 EU member states in support of Bulgaria and Romania joining Schengen, with Austria opposing membership of the visa zone for Bulgaria and Romania, and the Netherlands opposing Schengen membership for Bulgaria.
EU members since 2007, but repeatedly denied Schengen membership for more than a decade, Bulgaria and Romania recently had been pursuing renewed diplomatic efforts to win approval for joining Schengen.
The Netherlands has insisted that its objections to Bulgaria joining Schengen are based on Sofia having failed to make sufficient progress against corruption, and requested a report on Bulgaria under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM). Put in place when Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU, the CVM was intended to bring the two countries up to EU standards in rule of law. The CVM was lifted in 2019.
Austria has expressed similar objections regarding Bulgaria and Romania.
Ahead of the December 8 meeting, European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas expressed backing for the two countries, saying: “We are stronger, not weaker, through Schengen enlargement…Enlarging Schengen means more and better controls, not less”.
The European Commission and European Parliament repeatedly have appealed for the Schengen admission of Bulgaria and Romania, arguing that both countries fulfil all the technical criteria for membership.
Bulgaria’s caretaker Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev told Bulgarian National Television after the decision: “We will work to reach a compromise with both countries. The work continues.
“Sweden, which takes over the (Council of the EU) presidency, has also assured that it will make efforts in this direction,” Demerdzhiev said.
“I am convinced that the talks with Austria will be constructive. We expect the Netherlands to move on the same plane. The Netherlands has no concrete arguments for our actions or inactions. The mechanism to which the Netherlands refers was canceled in 2019. We are currently considering dialogue. When the means of dialogue are exhausted, we will inform you about our next steps,” he said.
(Photo: Council of the EU)
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