France, Germany Firmly against Bulgaria's Schengen Entry

Politics » BULGARIA IN EU | December 21, 2010, Tuesday // 17:43
Bulgaria: France, Germany Firmly against Bulgaria's Schengen Entry French Interior Minister, Brice Hortefeux (L), with his German counterpart, Thomas de Maiziere. Photo by BGNES

France and Germany have officially requested from the EU to postpone Bulgaria's and Romania's Schengen zone entry, according to the internet site of Radio France International Romania.

In a letter sent to the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom, the French Interior Minister, Brice Hortefeux, and his German counterpart, Thomas de Maiziere, have stated the March 11, 2011 joining date is too premature, pointing out the two countries have not fulfilled all requirements.

The letter mentions flaws in the areas of security, justice, fight against corruption and organized crime, which absolutely must been taken into account over their possible serious negative effects on the EU security related to its external borders and access to the Schengen database.

"To ignore these deficits would be neither realistic nor responsible, We believe the decision must be made when these main problems, now reason for alarm, are solved; when there is irreversible progress in the fight against corruption and organized crime," the letter states.

The two ministers, however, admit that from a technological viewpoint the process of Bulgaria's and Romania's joining of the Schengen zone can be assessed as positive.

Meanwhile, the Bulgarian news agency BGNES announced the information about the letter has been confirmed by one of the EC spokespersons, but according to other reports, Malmstrom's spokesperson has said he had not seen such letter.

Leonard Orban, adviser to the Romanian President on EU Affairs, however, had also admitted there is such document, but declined offering details.

At the end of November the authorities in France and the Netherlands dealt a blow to Bulgaria and Romania Schengen aspirations by tying the date for accession with the so-called Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), through which Brussels monitors the progress the two countries are making in justice and home affairs.

When the two countries joined the EU, in 2007, persistent corruption and insufficient reforms of their jutice systems determined the set-up of an unprecedented monitoring mechanism, which so far led to the freezing of some EUR 500 M in Bulgaria due to fraud associated with EU funds.

Bulgaria's government has repeatedly said it is working hard to cover the Schengen Agreement criteria and join the zone March 2011.

The Balkan country has also started working with the Schengen Information System (SIS).

Bulgaria's government has been keeping a low profile over France's Roma crackdown, apparently fearing that tension with Paris might put at risk its Schengen accession.

The country hopes to join the EU's border-free zone by the end of 2011 as scheduled and the official line is that recent expulsions of mostly Romanian and Bulgarian Roma from France is irrelevant to that process.

Bulgaria submitted its formal declaration of readiness in September 2007 and sent European authorities follow-up reports, penning in March 2011 as the target date for accession to the Schengen zone.

The estimates turned meaningless due to a delay in the award of a tender to produce biometric passports and lack of progress on the second generation of the EU's Schengen Information System, more commonly known as SISII.

The 1985 Schengen Agreement is an agreement among most Western and Central European countries which allows for the abolition of systematic border controls between the participating countries.

By the Treaty of Amsterdam, the agreement itself and all decisions having been enacted on its basis had been implemented into the law of the European Union.

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Tags: European Commission, Romania, Bulgaria, Schengen Agreement, Schengen, France, EU membership accession, March 11, 2011, the Netherlands, Brice Hortefeux, Thomas de Maiziere, Cecilia Malmstrom, Germany, France
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