Meglena Kuneva: EU Has to Let Bulgaria into Schengen to Fend off Security Threats
Bulgaria has to be allowed to enter the European Union’s borderless Schengen area as early as this autumn to avert threats to security, Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Kuneva has said.
“Member states could not be left out of Schengen when there is threat of terrorism and migratory pressure,” Kuneva said on BNR radio station on Sunday.
“When Bulgaria has no access to the entire data base of the Schengen area, we are weakening both ourselves and Europe,” she added.
Kuneva, who is Deputy Prime Minister for European Policy Coordination and Institutional Affairs, also said that the decision for admitting Bulgaria into Schengen needs to be taken by the European Council in September to open the way for the country’s accession the following month.
Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007, has met all technical criteria relating to accession to the Schengen area, according to Kuneva. She reiterated the need to decouple Bulgaria’s accession from the country’s progress in judicial reform which is being monitored under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) of the European Commission.
Concerns over the state of Bulgaria’s slow and graft-prone judiciary has prompted the European Commission to track the progress of judicial reform and the fight against corruption, using the CVM. Tackling corruption and judicial reform is among the reformist goals of the minority coalition government led by Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
Membership of Schengen is needed right now – not after the judicial reform is completed and not after changes to the Judicial System Act, or the Penal Code, or the Civil Proceedings Code are adopted, Kuneva opined.
“Schengen will be subject to changes due to the threat of terrorism and Bulgaria cannot be left out of this process,” said Kuneva.
Bulgaria has joined the Western sanctions against Russia over Moscow’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis and has shown its support for the common EU policies in the areas of energy diversification and migration.
This support should be seen as a test whether Bulgaria is able to go in the same direction as the EU and in this context the country must not be left out of the common security zone, Kuneva said.
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