EU urges approval for three more nations to join Schengen
Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania have fulfilled conditions to enter the European Union’s visa-free travel regime and should benefit from participation “without any further delay,” the bloc’s executive arm said on Wednesday.
The countries have significantly contributed to the well-functioning of the so-called Schengen area, including during the time of the pandemic and when faced with the consequences of the war in Ukraine, and they should be permitted to become full members, the European Commission said in a statement.
The final decision still rests with the EU justice ministers, who are expected to vote on the matter on December 8.
An enlarged Schengen area would make Europe safer, more prosperous and more attractive by significantly expanding the world’s largest common area without internal border controls, the commission said in a statement.
“It’s high time to say welcome,” the EU’s commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, told reporters in Brussels. “These three members states deserve to feel fully European. The wait has been long.”
The European Parliament voted earlier this month to support Croatia’s entry into Schengen, the first addition after Liechtenstein joined more than a decade ago.
Romania and Bulgaria have also long met the technical criteria to join the Schengen area, but some EU members have expressed reluctance over concerns about the countries’ ability to curb corruption and uphold the rule of law.
The pair joined the EU in 2007 but failed to win a political vote to become members of the Schengen area four years later due to corruption concerns.
Now, they are striving to show they can accommodate an influx of refugees from the war in Ukraine while still protecting the EU’s external borders. The two countries want to be admitted to the zone as early as January 1, which is when Croatia expects to join.
The Netherlands is still undecided on whether to support Romania’s Schengen bid. Sweden’s position on the enlargement is also unclear, given its new government may lack the required support to back the three bids in parliament.
Sweden Democrats, which back the minority cabinet in the legislature, are against it and the opposition Social Democrats are requiring the government to submit an analysis of consequences, said party leader Magdalena Andersson.
Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu said he was assured by his Swedish counterpart that the Nordic country won’t oppose the entry.
“We continue our diplomatic efforts,” Aurescu told reporters in Bucharest on Wednesday. “I’ve been assured that the stance of the current Swedish government hasn’t changed in supporting our bid.”
Additional reporting by Niclas Rolander, Andra Timu and Irina Vilcu
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.
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