POLITICS

EP to vote on Romania, Bulgaria Schengen accession June 4

Rapporteur Carlos Coelho evaluation shows that both countries are ready to join the border-free zone.

The European Parliament’s decision in what regards Romania’s and Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen zone may be made in a June 4 vote, EP representatives told Mediafax yesterday. Before the assembly vote, the EP Home Affairs Committee will discuss a report on the two countries’ stage of accession by rapporteur Carlos Coelho, on May 2. The report, which will remain open for amendments until tomorrow, says that Romania and Bulgaria are ready to join the border-free area.

The document was presented to the Home Affairs Committee yesterday and, according to Realitatea.net, the text says that “taking into account the results of evaluations and necessary re-evaluation visits done by teams of experts, the rapporteur reaches the conclusion that, although there are some special matters that will necessitate regular information and monitoring in the future, they are not an obstacle to the two countries’ full accession.”

During yesterday’s meeting, Coelho also underlined that the Schengen evaluation system must not work with double standards and it is necessary that all countries included in the border-free zone and candidate states be subjected to the same evaluation criteria.
The European Parliament vote, which has a consultative role, was scheduled on June 4 so as to be held before the matter is discussed by the Home Affairs and Justice Council on June 9-10. The Council has the final say in the matter.

The date of the EP vote was also confirmed by Coelho for Bulgarian media, according to Novinite. “Bulgaria has covered the necessary technical criteria better than some of the states already in the Agreement,” Coelho said. Bulgaria has covered all Schengen criteria after the Schengen Evaluation Group evaluated positively its technical preparedness to join the border-free area, the news agency also said. After an inspection at the Bulgarian-Turkish border in March, the Schengen working group has decided that Bulgaria meets all technical requirements for land border control. Yet, the rapporteur said a common action is due between Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey to keep the migration flows under control, as the Bulgarian-Turkish-Greek frontier is one of the most sensitive EU external borderlines. In this respect, Coelho filed an amendment that asks the pointed member states to write to European Parliament and Council about the actions they took to improve border control and also about the deficiencies they met in six months after the report comes into force.

Romania’s last technical report for accession was passed by the Evaluation Group earlier this year. On a visit to Bucharest in February, Coelho voiced appreciation for Bucharest authorities’ efforts to meet accession criteria, saying that as a European citizen, he feels perfectly safe with the control level implemented at the country’s land, sea and air borders. He reiterated that the country met all technical criteria for accession to Schengen.

Romania and Bulgaria were initially scheduled to join the border-free zone in March, but the accession date was postponed indefinitely after French and German interior ministers last year demanded a delay in the process. The ministers said Romania’s and Bulgaria’s accession in March would be premature, as the countries still have to show irreversible progress in fighting organised crime and corruption and in legal system reform. Their stance is shared by several other EU member states.

But Romanian officials have repeatedly rejected any connection between Schengen accession and the obligation to meet legal system reform benchmarks as set by the European Commission’s Coo­peration and Verification Mecha­nism. Bucharest insisted that Schengen accession is first of all a technical process and the country meets all required criteria from this point of view. Hungary, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union until July 1, has repeatedly voiced support for the two countries’ accession to Schengen.

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