The EU has been postponing Romania’s membership to the Schengen travel zone since 2011, four years after it entered the union in 2007. But, as Romania takes the EU’s presidency this year for the first time, could the process now be accelerated? According to President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, it could be given membership in the next year, despite ongoing concerns over rule of law.
Both Romania and Bulgaria have met the criteria to join since 2011. But, in order to be granted membership, they require the approval of all member states. This has been blocked by a number of existing members due to concerns over rule of law and corruption. A number of reports have shown that Romania has failed to meet the reforms needed to meet the EU’s standards.
At the moment, a number of member states are blocking Romania’s entry to the passport-free travel zones that applies to the majority of EU countries. However, during an event in Bucharest last week, the President called for membership to be granted to both Romania and Bulgaria this year. He claims that as both countries have met the criteria for years, they should be allowed to join this year as hoped.
This stance was echoed by President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, who said in a speech that the “natural place of Romania is within the Schengen zone”. He went on to say that he supports Romania and Bulgaria joining the Schengen zone and has done for several years, adding that he remains “faithful to the promise” he previously made.
However, despite the support, Romania’s failure to make progress in certain areas could see further delays. Critics argue that Romania has backtracked since joining the EU, and are not meeting European principles in many areas. Going forward, the next six months could be key to how, according to Donald Tusk, “the way we envisage our European future together”.
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