Bulgaria's Schengen Entry to be Delayed by Six Months - German Expert

Bulgaria in EU | December 21, 2010, Tuesday // 14:35|  views

Hans Gerhard Doering has been adviser to the Bulgarian interior ministry since 2007 on issues, concerning the implementation of the Schengen agreement. Photo by personal archive

Bulgaria's accession to the European visa-free Schengen zone, scheduled for March 2011, will be delayed by six months because the coalition of France and the Netherlands, which oppose early entry, is too powerful, according to a German expert.

"Besides their efforts to tie up Bulgaria's Schengen accession with the European Commission's continued monitoring of its justice reform and corruption combat, a recent report about the security of the Turkish border also put into question Bulgaria's readiness to join the area," Hans Gerhard Doering, adviser to the Bulgarian interior ministry since 2007 on issues, concerning the implementation of the Schengen agreement, told Deutsche Welle.

Doering cited data, according to which a total of 560 persons, who have been banned to cross the European Union borders, have made their way into the country since November.

"These people have not been extradited because the country is not a full member of the Schengen zone, but they will be stopped if they try to reach Greece or Central Europe," he said.

The German expert explained that there are two reports on Bulgaria's readiness to protect the external EU land borders, all of which are negative.

"I personally do not agree with these reports. There are some positions, which are clearly shaped by political interests, there is no other explanation. I have been working with Bulgaria's Interior Ministry for nearly four years already and share a different view," he commented.

According to Doering the opposition of France and the Netherlands is closely connected with problems such as the Roma emigration, but this issue is much more urgent in Romania.

"The debate [over Bulgaria's Schengen entry] flared up due to fears that illegal migrants in Greece will make their way through Bulgaria, rather than the airports, into Western Europe," he said.

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 expulsion 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 Peoples' Party (EPP), European parliament, Marin, Lessenski, Open Society Institute, Marin Lessenski, European Commission, Romania, Bulgaria, Schengen Agreement, Schengen, France, EU membership accession, in 2011, Andrey Kovatchev, the Netherlands


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