Sarkozy Ties Up Bulgaria, Romania Schengen Entry with Monitoring Mechanism

Bulgaria in EU | November 21, 2010, Sunday // 18:07|  views

French President Nicolas Sarkozy leaves his news conference at the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal, 20 November 2010. Photo by EPA/BGNES

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has dealt yet another blow to efforts by Bulgaria and Romania to separate Schengen accession from the European Commission's continued monitoring of their justice reform and anti-corruption efforts.

"Let's wait for this process to be completed before we fix the date when Romania and Bulgaria will join the Schengen," Sarkozy said, referring to 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.

"If the two countries enter the Schengen area, this means that they will become guardians of the borders of Europe, which means that their border problems must be resolved before their accession," Sarkozy added, apparently talking about the border issues between Romania and Moldova.

After the Saturday group photo of the leaders attending the NATO summit in Lisbon, the cameras captured a discussion that does not appear to have been the most cordial between Romanian President Traian Basescu and his counterpart in Paris.

Sarkozy however denied he had a quarrel with Basescu.

Last week Paris said Bulgaria and Romania are not ready to join the Schengen Agreement in March 2011, confirming France's intention to block the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, the latest EU entrants, to the borderless Schengen Area, which was first indicated Wednesday by France's Minister for European Affairs, Pierre Lellouche.

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: Sarkozy, French President, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, France, Nicolas Sarkozy, Romania, Bulgaria, Martin Schulz, Schengen, European Commission, moldova, Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), Traian Basescu


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