Netherlands, Finland 'in Isolation' for Vetoing Bulgaria's Schengen Bid - Interior Min

Bulgaria in EU | September 22, 2011, Thursday // 16:03|  views

European home affairs Commissioner, Swedish, Cecilia Malmstrom (L) chats with Dutch Immigration Minister Gerd Leers at the start of European Interior Ministers council at the EU headquaters in Brussels, Belgium, 22 September 2011. EPA/BGNES

The Netherlands and Finland are "in isolation" in the EU because of their vetoes on the Schengen Area entry of Bulgaria and Romania, according to Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.

Tsvetanov spoke to reporters in Brussels after the long-anticipated meeting of the EU Interior Ministers during which the Dutch and the Finns formally exercised their vetoes on the accession to the Schengen Agreement of the two Balkan countries.

"The Netherlands and Finland remain the only two EU states which did not support today the proposal for Bulgaria and Romania's accession to the Schengen Area. They failed to provide a logical explanation for their position," Bulgaria's Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov stated after the meeting of the Interior Ministers in Brussels, as cited by BTA.

"With this decision we are entering into a Catch 22 situation," Tsvetanov added.

He stressed that the Netherlands and Finland have ended up "in isolation" because of their opposition to Bulgaria and Romania's Schengen entry, since all other EU member states, including France and Germany, have accepted the "compromise" solution suggested by the Polish EU Presidency that Bulgaria and Romania be granted "partial" accession to the Schengen Area (i.e. with respect to sea and air borders travel.)

The statement of the Bulgarian Interior Minister about the "isolation" of the Dutch and the Finns seems highly dubious since over the recent months Germany, France, Austria, Sweden, among other EU member states, have all expressed political opposition to Bulgaria and Romania's Schengen entry. The veto of only one member state, however, is needed to block the accession of new countries, which is why it has been unnecessary for all opposed member states to play the veto card.

Tsvetanov, who is also one of the two Deputy Prime Ministers in the Borisov Cabinet, reminded the position of the European Commission that a veto on Bulgaria and Romania's Schengen accession leads to a “legal collision” because the two Balkan states have met all requirements for Schengen entry.

In Tsvetanov's words, the representatives of the Netherlands and Finland have explained during Thursday's meeting in Brussels that they “do not have a mandate” to support the enlargement of the 25-member Schengen Area.

“This position which is detrimental to Bulgaria and Romania is part of the internal political agreements in these countries and undermines the foundations of the EU project,” the Bulgarian Deputy PM declared, as cited by BNR.

“We need to be certain that the Schengen rules are fully applied, especially when it comes to cracking down on corruption and organized crime,” Dutch Immigration and Asylum Minister Gerd Leers told the EU Interior Ministers in Brussels Thursday.

“If that is not the case, we would have a door equipped with the eight best locks in the world but there would be somebody behind it letting everybody in. This constitutes a serious problem,” Leers is quoted as saying.

Finnish Interior Minister Paivi Rasanen confirmed the position of his country that Bulgaria and Romania are not fit for being Schengen members in spite of meeting the technical criteria.

“Bulgaria and Romania have indeed met the technical criteria for accession. However, we don't have full trust in their capacity to protect the external EU borders, including because of corruption, among other things,” she stated.

The Dutch and Finnish vetoes are an expected development in spite of Bulgaria and Romania's hopes and the outstanding efforts of the Polish EU Presidency that the two countries should be granted at least “partial” or “two-phased” Schengen accession – i.e. accession with respect to sea and air travel only for the time being.

The Polish EU Presidency had already made it clear ahead of Thursday's meeting of the EU ministers, whose outcome was predetermined, that Poland will do everything possible in order to find a solution about Bulgaria and Romania's Schengen fate before the summit of the EU 27 state leaders, i.e. the European Council, scheduled for October 17-18, 2011.

Bulgaria and Romania were originally expected to join the Schengen Area in March 2011 but their accession has been put off for an unknown period of time, primarily because of political opposition by key EU states focusing on their rule of law situations.

It is a common perception that both Bulgaria and Romania have fulfilled the technical requirements for Schengen accession, but their entry has been opposed on the grounds of what other members claim to be persisting problems with corruption and organized crime.

Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland have been known to share the Dutch misgivings but the Netherlands appears to have become provided the most categorical "no" to Bulgaria and Romania in Schengen ahead of the much-anticipated September 22, 2011, ministerial in Brussels.

Bulgaria has already threatened “counter-measures” if its Schengen application is treated “unfairly”, which boil down to “reconsidering” its support for the Schengen reform legislation.

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Tags: Schengen, Schengen Area, Schengen Agreement, EU, Schengen Accession, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Interior Minister, Finland, Netherlands, veto, Gerd Leers, Paivi Rasanen, Germany, France, Polish EU Presidency, Poland, home affairs


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