Bulgaria, Romania and Schengen: Further details

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister, Deputy PM and Foreign Minister and the country’s Interior Minister gave further details on December 28 of the state of play regarding Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen visa zone, after Romania’s Prime Minister and Interior Ministry made statements on the issue.

As The Sofia Globe reported earlier, Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov said ahead of a scheduled Cabinet meeting that there was an agreement in principle with Austria on the admission of Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen zone, initially with air and sea borders, while the matter of land borders was still being negotiated.

Speaking at a news conference after the Cabinet meeting, Denkov said that it was a principle of the government not to release information before negotiations were completed on various topics that were complex and important “but since the Romanian government has provided their media with some of the information on the still ongoing negotiations, we decided that we should say what has been happening in recent days and weeks”.

Denkov said that in order to achieve a positive result, many institutions played a role.

“I especially want to emphasise the role of the National Assembly, which in recent months adopted a number of laws that were awaited for years and which were related to the expectations of the Netherlands and the European Commission, on establishing the rule of law in Bulgaria.”

Without these laws and the parties that supported them, “the veto of the Netherlands would not have been lifted,” Denkov said.

He said that Romania and Bulgaria entering Schengen at different times was not being discussed in regard to the next stage, the inclusion of the land borders.

Neither Austria and Romania had made a commitment for the inclusion of the land borders to happen in 2025, he said, in an apparent response to media reports to that effect.

Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Maria Gabriel said that there were no additional conditions for Bulgaria, only the implementation of the Dublin Regulation in Bulgaria regarding the return of refugees registered in Bulgaria but who later appear in Austria.

“We are continuing to work very actively with our partners in Austria, Romania, the European Commission, the Spanish Presidency (of the Council of the EU), as well as with the General Secretariat and the Legal Service of the Council on a decision on full membership of Bulgaria and Romania in Schengen,” Gabriel said.

On reaching an agreement, the two countries will be able to apply the Schengen legislation.

At the end of March, air and sea borders will be included and at the next stage, land borders would be included.

“I want to say clearly that the acceptance of Bulgaria into the Schengen area has been a national priority for our country for years, on which a number of governments and politicians have worked,” Gabriel said.

“I would also like to especially thank (GERB-UDF leader) Boiko Borissov, because in recent days he has been following, helping and empathising with the difficult negotiations.

“At the same time, I want to emphasise that we are talking about a delicate negotiation process that has not yet ended. We hope this will happen in the days remaining until the end of the year,” she said.

(Photo: VOA)

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