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February 3, 2023
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Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum Mitarachi in Bucharest: The absence of Romania and Bulgaria is a handicap for the Schengen area itself

“It is very difficult at this stage to advance a calendar, but I hope to solve the crisis in 2023,” Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi stated with regard to Romania’s accession to the Schengen area in an exclusive interview for AGERPRES, on Wednesday, in Bucharest.

Asked what would be a realistic timetable for a new enlargement of the Schengen area, the Greek minister said that “first of all we must agree on the concrete steps that must be taken so that Austria and the Netherlands give up their veto”. In this sense, he specified, several bilateral meetings will take place in the coming weeks.

“We hope to make an announcement at the informal [Justice and Home Affairs – ed.n.] Council in Stockholm about the steps we have taken so far. It is very difficult at this stage to advance a timetable, but I hope to solve the crisis in 2023,” Mitarachi told AGERPRES.

Last week, the Greek minister launched an initiative to support the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the free movement area of the European Union.

He stated that a decoupling of Romania’s and Bulgaria’s applications to join the Schengen area “would be very difficult for both countries, both practically and politically”.

“It would mean that there will be a Schengen border established between Bulgaria and Romania for a short period of time, it would be enormously complicated, as a redesign of the entire Schengen process would be necessary for Bulgaria and Romania,” he said.

Notis Mitarachi also stated that he understands that there are additional concerns regarding Bulgaria, “but these must be resolved and they are being resolved by the European Commission, by the preparation of the necessary documentation regarding the application of the principles of the rule of law in all EU member states”.

“Therefore, I believe that progress could also be registered in the case of the Netherlands and I would meet with my Dutch counterpart soon,” the Greek minister said.

Asked what it would mean for Romania and Bulgaria not to join the Schengen area this year either, given that the statements of the heads of the EU institutions once again created a horizon of expectation in this regard, he said that “it would be very negative for the Schengen area itself”.

“I believe that the fact that we have faced challenges over the years, not only in terms of migration, makes more Europe necessary, makes more institutional and structural cooperation necessary, and the absence of Romania and Bulgaria is a handicap for the Schengen area itself ,” said the Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum.

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