French Minister All But Encroaches Sovereignty of Bulgaria, Romania
The external borders of all Schengen countries are the external borders of France, has implied French Minister of European Affairs Laurent Wauquiez.
"When Bulgaria and Romania enter Schengen, that will mean that their borders become our borders," said Wauquiez in an interview for Tuesday's edition of French paper Le T?l?gramme de Brest.
While true on a metaphoric level, the statement was used by the French minister to argue in support of the recently raised additional demands of France towards the Bulgarian and Romanian Schengen entry that have nothing to do with the legally proclaimed technical requirements for accession.
All EU member states except the United Kingdom and Ireland are required to eventually enter the Schengen Zone, but have to fulfill a number of technical criteria relating to external border security in advance.
Both Bulgaria and Romania are expected to fulfill those requirements by the planned March 2011 deadline.
But in December France together with Germany vowed to veto the entry of Bulgaria and Romania based on concerns that relate not to the legally mandated criteria, but rather to issues with corruption and crime that are dealt with by the so-called Co-operation and Verification Mechanism set up for the two EU newcomers.
In the interview for Le T?l?gramme, Laurent Wauquiez stated that France's opposition has nothing to do with the crisis of Roma migrants from Bulgaria and Romania who were forced by the French government to return to their home countries over the summer.
But he somewhat confusingly reiterated his worries that France would face immigration problems should Bulgaria and Romania enter Schengen.
"This is a region of Europe through which some 70% of illegal immigration passes and where there are potentially great threats of different kinds of traffic (weapons, drugs and even traffic of children)," said the French Minister for European Affairs.
Laurent Wauquiez had given a similar interview for Le Figaro last Thursday.
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"The main question is: Can Bulgaria be excluded from EU ? There are no rules or procedures for exclusion- and it is not necessary. It will be political decisions that will make it impossible for Bulgaria to remain in EU as a trusted member."
I wouldn't exactly agree with that statement, but it is clear that Bulgaria must decide if it wants to be just a counting member of the EU or if it wants to really profit as much as possible from its membership and comply to Schengen, Eurozone and other rules.
"Bulgaria was never invited to join the Union, but officially applied in 1997 and had to wait 10 years."
Two small remarks:
Bulgaria applied already in December 1995 for EU membership.
An 'invitation' to join the EU is not usual and necessary. The first step has always to be the formal application. Every country that fulfills the basic criteria is invited to do so.
Bulgaria was not an 'uninvited' guest, it is a country like all the others, but has also to fulfill the same criteria. (Unfortunately we see again lately that some countries think the rules are not for them...)
There is not much confusion in his statement and the worries are real. Germany and France only express worries shared by most northern and western EU members, and Schengen agreement is based on political trust more than anything else, more than the technical issues being minimum criteria.
In short- Bulgaria and Romania are not trusted partners in a Schengen agreement, and would never be left with the responsibility of controlling EU's outer border in the South East.
Most Bulgarians seem to have a short memory when it comes to Bulgaria's EU membership.
Bulgaria was never invited to join the Union, but officially applied in 1997 and had to wait 10 years. When the country joined in 2007 , Bulgaria had to accept being monitored closely as high level corruption, fraud, organized crime and lack of judicial reforms remained rampant. Then followed a period of blocking EU funds and excluding Bulgaria from financial support as well as access to EU's internal labor market, in an effort to speed up Bulgaria's declared fight against corruption and implement judicial reforms. In 2010 the problems have only increased and the present BG Government has failed and no serious efforts have been made to curb organized crime and corruption.
The main question is: Can Bulgaria be excluded from EU ? There are no rules or procedures for exclusion- and it is not necessary. It will be political decisions that will make it impossible for Bulgaria to remain in EU as a trusted member. Warnings have been given as threats to introduce safeguard measures, blocking more EU funds, excluding Bulgaria from Schengen, Eurozone, and important political positions inside EU.
The messages are clear enough- even PM Borisov understands how serious the situation is and prefer to keep a low profile. EU's patience is at the end of the line, and Bulgaria has some difficult choices to make. The country was not ready for EU in 2007 and the situation in 2010 has not improved.
So what is the purpose of joining a union if you are not welcome or cannot accept the rules?