Schengen Accession in Limbo: Bulgaria Watches Closely as Dutch Politics Evolve

EU | May 27, 2024, Monday // 09:18|  views

The Netherlands has formed a new government, prompting speculation about potential implications for Bulgaria's status in the Schengen Agreement. Since March 31, Bulgaria has been part of Schengen for air and sea travel, but entry by land requires unanimous approval from EU member states. The timing for such a vote remains uncertain, with hopes it could happen by year-end. However, the issue is not a priority for the upcoming EU presidencies of Belgium and Hungary.

The newly formed Dutch coalition involves parties with varying stances on EU matters. Notably, the far-right Party for Freedom, led by Geert Wilders, initially opposed Bulgaria's Schengen accession. However, during the previous administration led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the Dutch veto on Bulgaria's entry was lifted. Now, as part of the new coalition, Wilders' party is expected to play a significant role, despite not holding the prime ministerial position.

The coalition agreement, reached on May 22, does not explicitly address the Schengen area. However, discussions have centered on potential mini-Schengen agreements involving the Netherlands and neighboring countries. These agreements aim to remove border controls within the specified group but maintain them with other Schengen members, including Italy and France.

Wilders' party has outlined key demands, including stricter measures on asylum and migration policy and tighter restrictions on labor migration. These proposals signal a departure from the principles of free movement within the EU. Additionally, the agreement expresses skepticism toward EU enlargement and calls for reductions in the Netherlands' contributions to the EU budget.

Despite these developments, it remains uncertain whether the new Dutch government will push for a veto on Bulgaria's full entry into Schengen. Observers suggest that while talks on Bulgaria's Schengen accession are ongoing, Bulgaria should remain vigilant against the possibility of a Dutch veto.

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Tags: Schengen, Bulgaria, Netherlands, EU

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