Ten years after joining the EU, Romania is expecting confirmation next year over whether it will be allowed to join the Schengen area before taking presidency in 2019. According to the Romanian government, all the criteria have been met, and it claims the EU is holding back on making a decision based purely on political reasons.
The EU Council also confirmed in 2011 that Romania meets all the conditions required to join the Schengen area including border security, data protection and police cooperation. However the decision was postponed by the EU for both Romania and Bulgaria, who also joined the EU in 2007.
Romanian minister for European Affairs, Victor Negrescu noted that “Everyone tells us that we should discuss with another country [about the problems], and we don’t know with whom to discuss. We don’t know why we should not be there.” He added that “maybe a vote should happen”, and that “It would be an excellent occasion to put the issue on the table of the EU.”
Negrescu also suggested that Romania could join Schengen in a two-step process, which would first involve removing controls in airports, and then land and sea borders following afterwards. This has been met with some doubts across the rest of the EU, and it’s thought that internal developments within the country could cause further delays, including reforms of the judicial system and claims of corruption.
Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans warned that Romania had made progress but there was “still more work to be done”. He noted in a report that “The overall reform momentum in the course of 2017 has stalled,” and that “a risk of re-opening issues which the January 2017 report had considered as closed” and that “challenges to judicial independence are a serious source of concern.”
Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the Commission called for Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen zone earlier in the year, but this seems to be unpopular with other member states, who feel it’s more important to strengthen the current border controls in response to the recent migration crisis.
An EU official noted that Romania joining Schengen is a “very sensitive issue for the EU.” This is mostly due to trade between Eastern and Western Europe, and countries in the west believing companies will relocate to the east to reduce their costs. He added that Romania has the fastest growing economy across Europe, and that there was “reluctance” from other member states to open up trade.
In response to this, Melescanu has insisted that Romania is using “the latest technology” for security and border management and that they are “open to discuss some amelioration in the development and the provisions in the Schengen area.” He also said that in the months leading up to its EU presidency, Romania will “continue dialogue with other member states to ensure a consensus.” Adding that “We are ready, we are prepared”
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