Schengen area: Paris and Berlin leave Bucharest and Sofia high and dry
22 decembrie 2010
On 21 December, the German and French interior ministers wrote to the European Commission to request that Bulgaria and Romania’s inclusion in the Schengen Area, which had been scheduled for March 2011, should now be postponed. Warning of a danger to the security of visa-free travel zone, they argue that the programmed date is "premature," and insist that both countries will have to make "conclusive progress" in the fight against corruption and organised crime.
In Bulgaria and Romania, the Franco-German veto has prompted surprise and disappointment. Headlining with "France and Germany block Bulgaria’s bid to join Schengen," the Bulgarian daily Dnevnik notes that the letter has made it clear that "Germany also believes that our country is not ready." Describing Berlin’s move to support the French position on the issue as "surprising,” the newspaper quotes the official response from the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: "We should redouble our efforts, and that includes efforts in the field of judicial reform, to allay the doubts of some of our partners." The daily also reminds its readers that the inclusion of new countries in the Schengen Area is subject to a unanimous decision by all of Europe’s member states. In Romania, the government deplored what it termed a "discriminatory" attitude towards Romania and Bulgaria, while the press criticised the change of policy in Paris and Berlin. On the issue of "why France and Germany do not want us to join Schengen," Gândul remarks that "instead of getting angry about the refusal to let us in, we should ask why these two countries [France and Germany] approved our entry into the EU" in 2007. The Bucharest daily points out that "corruption was the same then as it is now, and there is no hope that it can be eradicated overnight." In conclusion, Gândul argues that "the real explanation is that the political and economic interests of these large states no longer coincide with those of Romania" – a development which should be blamed on the “failure” of Romanian diplomacy.