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Schengen accession dominated the talks held in Bucharest by the President of the European Council Charles Michel and the Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.
Accession to the free travel Schengen Area and to the European single currency zone would perfectly shape Romania's European integration. If entry into the euro zone does not represent a major temptation for the established EU states, though, and it does not seem a major issue for Romania either at the moment, remaining outside Schengen is a major source of frustration for Bucharest. At the end of 2022, the goal of accession seemed perfectly achievable, but Austria's fierce opposition appeared untimely. Romania once again missed Schengen accession, although the European institutions and the other partners in the Union had validated as justified and deserved its place in the Schengen Area.
On a visit to Bucharest on Monday, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said, after discussions with President Klaus Iohannis, that he supported Romania's efforts to join Schengen as soon as possible. Charles Michel said that he was convinced that the European Union would be safer if Romania entered the Schengen area. He added that it was clear to him that Romania had fulfilled all the necessary obligations to join and he hoped that a possible solution would be found and that he would do everything he could to get this decision as soon as possible. Charles Michel went on to say that Schengen accession was a common goal in 2023, and that they would continue to work together. Why? Because they understand the citizens’ disappointment. He also said that he would like to be able to tell the people of Romania that there was this support at the European level for Romania to join the Schengen area as soon as possible.
Accession to Schengen remains a national objective and all the Romanian authorities are working to achieve it, President Iohannis reiterated. However, he drew attention to the fact that, although Romania meets the conditions for accession, it can only come after a complicated negotiation process, under the conditions of Austria's opposition.
Klaus Iohannis has avoided giving any date for accession: "There is no concrete assumption of any date from June or October or anytime in the future. But my ambition and ours is to complete this process successfully for Romania this year and in the best version for Bulgaria too, of course. It suits us best to enter the Schengen area together. We don't have to prove anything. Everyone understood that we are prepared, but we have a situation generated by migration worldwide and at the European level, where, of course, we can intervene as much as possible. We can manage the migration that would come through our area and we do it very well. That's why we negotiated with the European Commission a pilot project on the border between Romania and Serbia to show how this process can be managed efficiently."
Once among the most enthusiastic supporters of the European project, some of the Romanians are now disappointed with the Union. The president expressed concern about the growth of Euroscepticism and did not rule out the failure of Schengen accession to be a possible cause. (LS)
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