Finland Also Says No to Bulgaria, Romania Schengen Entry

Politics » BULGARIA IN EU | January 21, 2011, Friday // 08:55| Views: | Comments: 0
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Bulgaria: Finland Also Says No to Bulgaria, Romania Schengen Entry Finnish Minister of Immigration and European Affairs Astrid Thors (L) and French European affairs Minister Pierre Lellouche (R) are pictured here at the start of a General affairs council in Luxembourg, 25 October 2010. Photo by EPA/BGNES

Finland has joined France and Germany in opposing Bulgaria and Romania's accession to the Schengen zone, a Finnish government spokesman said.

"Finland's committee for European affairs took the official position in a meeting last week," spokesman Mikko Norros told AFP.

The announcement came just as the French European Affairs Minister Laurent Wauquiez paid a visit to Helsinki on Thursday.

"It is very important for us that today for the first time the Finnish government said officially that they have doubts that the governments of Romania and Bulgaria are ready to join Schengen now," Wauquiez commented.

Speaking at a joint press conference, Finland's minister for european affairs and immigration Astrid Thors, said Romania and Bulgaria had done good work so far in meeting the requirements for joining the Schengen zone, but that more had to be done.

"Both countries still need to take concrete actions to strengthen the battle against corruption and crime," she said.

France and Germany reiterated Thursday their staunch opposition to a March 2011 entry of Bulgaria and Romania in the Schengen Area.

"If Schengen's database enters into the hands of international organized crime, then all European internal security vanishes into thin air," said European Affairs Minister Laurent Wauquiez at a press-conference in Helsinki.

The French minister thus intensified worries on the part of both France and Germany that Bulgaria and Romania have still sufficient problems with justice and law enforcement that could render Schengen entry impracticable for the time being.

Wauquiez characterized a March 2011 accession to Schengen as "premature," recalling France's position that Bulgaria and Romania are in addition vulnerable to illegal immigration and trafficking of weapons, drugs and humans.

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 however will most probably fail to join the Schengen area in March 2011, a target date, which has been set as early as in 2007, during the term of the previous Socialist-led government.

Hungary, which currently holds the EU presidency, may decide to put this issue on the agenda of the Council of Interior Ministers of the EU, due on February 24, but the decision will most probably be negative.

The next deadline to be set for Bulgaria is expected to be November this year.

Bulgarian experts are unanimous that the country meets the technical requirements. The real problem rather seems to be the threat of information leakages and Greece's porous border with Turkey.

Experts say the reluctance of France, The Netherlands, Germany and Austria to let the Balkan country join the Agreement in 2011 is both because of domestic politics and because they really believe the entry into Schengen will be premature, just as the EU entry.

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Tags: Helsinki, information system, Hungary, Bulgaria, Schengen, Romania, France, EU, Germany, Thomas de Maiziere, Laurent Wauquiez, organized crime, justice, trafficking, immigration, Finland, French, Finnish, European affairs, Astrid Thors
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