Netherlands Seeks EC Mission Over Bulgaria's Schengen EntryEU | November 20, 2023, Monday // 12:13| views
The European Commission has acknowledged that the Netherlands has made a formal request for an additional fact-finding mission in Bulgaria. This request, linked to Bulgaria's aspirations to become part of the Schengen Area for unrestricted movement, resonates with the reservations expressed by the Netherlands and Austria concerning Bulgaria's accession to Schengen. While the European Commission refrained from divulging specific details regarding the mission, it stressed that both Bulgaria and Romania fulfill the prerequisites for full entry into the Schengen Zone. The Commission has pledged to facilitate discussions between concerned member states to expedite a decision, potentially through the organization of an investigative mission.
However, the political landscape in the Netherlands currently presents a challenge. With the country under a caretaker government due to imminent early parliamentary elections on November 22, the scope for decision-making regarding Bulgaria's Schengen accession is limited. Yet, the projected outcomes of these elections seem far from promising for Bulgaria's aspirations, as per Dutch MEPs Sophie in 't Veld and Jeroen Lenaers.
According to pre-election polls, the New Social Contract party (NSC), founded a mere three months ago and headed by Pieter Omtzigt, previously regarded as an outsider, is the front-runner. While the NSC, a center-right party under the European People's Party (EPP), opposes the EU's future expansion, it emphasizes good governance and social security as core tenets. However, experts are skeptical about Omtzigt's prioritization of domestic issues over positive decisions regarding Bulgaria's Schengen entry.
"In Omtzigt's agenda, domestic issues hold precedence, signaling potential reluctance toward a favorable stance on Schengen entry," commented Sophie in 't Veld from the liberal group "Renew Europe."
Moreover, the stance of the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), a party closely trailing the NSC in polls, remains uncertain. Jeroen Lenaers, an EPP deputy and CDA member, highlighted the party's proximity to the NSC but refrained from predicting its stance. Dutch MEPs from this political group have shifted to support Bulgaria's Schengen accession, but the Dutch party's decision will ultimately determine their position.
The ambiguity surrounding the Dutch election results and their impact on Bulgaria's Schengen prospects remains a pivotal concern for the upcoming mission and Bulgaria's aspirations for Schengen inclusion.
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