Blocked from entering the Schengen area this spring, Romania’s relationship with its European Union partners is under strain. France and Germany are also against Bulgaria into Schengen. Paris and Berlin say it would be premature, citing concerns over EU internal security.
The Schengen Agreement signed in the town of Schengen, Luxembourg, in 1985, checks international travellers coming into and leaving the area, but with no internal border controls.
The 25 countries in Schengen have a combined population of 400 million. Admitting any new member requires unanimous approval. Romania and Bulgaria had hoped to join in March.
Bucharest has objected strongly to the French and German move, saying that questions about the functioning of its justice system against corruption and organized crime are unfair grounds.
Elizabeth Collett, with the Migration Policy Institute, reasoned that national pressures are in play:
“I think that France and Germany, along with a number of other countries, are finding it politically difficult to demonstrate openness towards immigration. Even within the EU framework, it’s contentious during an economic crisis.”
Greece has great difficulty managing illegal immigration at its land border with Turkey. Romania’s border with non-EU Moldova and Ukraine are far longer. Plus, Bulgaria borders Turkey.
Collett said: “There may be a legitimate concern with respect the Greek border. Currently the Greek border is a hot spot, and should Bulgaria accede to the Schengen area, that may become the next external border hot spot for illegal migration, and that’s a concern for a number of countries.”
The newest EU members’ reforms are still under European Commission monitoring that is not directly linked to Schengen.
Bucharest and Sofia await an official decision on where they stand, when EU ministers meet in Budapest later next month.