POLITICS

European leaders call for Schengen enlargement

President Traian Basescu launches tough attack on The Netherlands, saying that Dutch opposition to Romania and Bulgaria joining border-free zone is abusive.

European Union Interior Ministers should agree to let Bulgaria and Romania into the free-movement Schengen area “as soon as possible,” the European Council said in its final summit statement on Friday.

Bulgaria and Romania were certified in June as having met all entry requirements for entry into the Schengen area. But The Netherlands has led opposition to their entry out of concern about their insufficient progress on tackling corruption and organised crime.

“All legal conditions have been met for the decision on Bulgaria and Romania’s accession to the Schengen area to be taken,” the summit declaration said, calling on interior ministers to adopt this decision as soon as possible. The Council also said that if necessary, it will discuss the issue again at its March 2012 meeting.

In the wake of the EU Council call, ‘Sofia Echo’ reported that a draft recommendation that Bulgaria and Romania’s sea and air borders be included in the Schengen zone by March 25, 2012 is on the agenda of a meeting of the bloc’s justice and home affairs ministers on December 14.

The draft says that the land borders of the two countries, should be included in Schengen no later than July 31, 2012, the publication said.

But despite increasing pressure on The Netherlands to changes its stance on the matter, the Dutch government does not seem to give in. On the contrary, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte insisted that Romania and Bulgaria must come up with concrete evidence that they are tackling corruption and organised crime. For the time being, neither of the two country is doing enough to deal with these issues, he said. “I don’t rule out that the Netherlands will again say no” to Romania’s and Bulgaria’s accession to Schengen in March 2012, Rutte added.

Meanwhile, President Traian Basescu said the Dutch opposition to Schengen enlargement is “abusive” and underlined that it was not Romania that legalised prostitution and drug consumption, but The Netherlands. “It’s not Albita (e.n. a border check-point in Romania) that’s the gateway for contraband cigarettes, alcohol and drugs and it’s not Romania that legalised prostitution and drug consumption out of helplessness,” the head of state said after the EU summit in Brussels, quoted by Mediafax.

He continued his attack on The Netherlands this weekend. While shopping in a Bucharest supermarket, Basescu advised Romanians not to buy Dutch vegetables. “There are no Romanian vegetables on sale. I must admit that I avoided Dutch ones. I preferred to buy Turkish and Spanish vegetables (…). And I think we should not buy Dutch vegetables,” the president said.

His statements were criticised by opposition Social-Democrat leader Victor Ponta as “nonsense” uttered by an “irresponsible president.” “This is a cheap circus act from Basescu,” Ponta said.

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