Initially scheduled for March 2011, Romania’s accession to the Schengen free movement area has been repeatedly postponed
Initially scheduled for March 2011, Romania’s accession to the Schengen free movement area, alongside Bulgaria, has been repeatedly postponed. The reasons evoked along the years were related to the failure to comply with some of the goals assumed under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. These goals have to do with the fight against corruption, justice and the fight against organised crime, but the authorities in Bucharest say Schengen accession and the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism are unrelated.
Romania’s compliance with all technical criteria, a fact which was recognised by all the member states years ago, is recurrently mentioned in statements by some decisions-makers in Brussels or in various chancelleries, but its materialisation has been delayed. Against the backdrop of a massive flow of refugees towards Western Europe in recent years, Romania’s objective seems within reach. Shortly after the European Commission President, Jean Claude Juncker, pleaded in his state of the union address, in September, for the two countries’ accession to the Schengen area, the message was reiterated in Bucharest by the European Commissioner for the Security Union, Julian King.
It was also voiced by the special rapporteur Ulla Schmidt, who said in Bucharest, upon the presentation of a document on “Promoting Stability in the Black Sea Area”, that Romania’s and Bulgaria’s Schengen accession is a step that should obviously be taken, as the prerequisites have been met. The Initiative of the Black Sea synergies should be brought to life and completed by a macro-regional strategy, Ulla Schmidt said, expressing confidence that in the 2018-2019 period, when Romania and Bulgaria take over the EU rotating presidency, these mandates will highlight the huge potential of the Black Sea Area. According to the report drafted by the rapporteur, the Black Sea Area has a huge potential, but it is facing huge difficulties, having the opportunity to develop positively or to face new crises.
In September, the European Commission officially called on the Governments of all EU member states to approve the full integration of Romania and Bulgaria and underlined the need to finalise, without delay, accession procedures to enhance the European Union’s safety in the face of terrorism and migration-related challenges. In Bucharest, political analyst Bogdan Chirieac is rather sceptical about Romania’s chances to join Schengen, although Jean-Claude Juncker openly stood for its accession.
Bogdan Chirieac: “As you very well know, reactions emerged immediately against the two countries’ accession to the Schengen area from where we had not expected, including from Austria. In another move, at the moment, I don’t believe it will be a good thing for Romania and Bulgaria to join Schegen, as we would face insurmountable migration-related problems. For the time being, migration flows are only collaterally affecting Romania, as they are trying to get directly into the Schengen area. So, from this point of view, if we joined the Schengen Area we would do a huge favour to the EU rather than gaining something”.
Romania’s aspirations haven’t changed. However, it remains to be seen if the encouraging signal from Brussels solves anything and whether or not reticence will be shown again by such countries as the Netherlands, which has been opposed to Romania’s accession so far.
Invited at the microphone of Radio Romania International, political analyst Cornel Codita explains: “At present, there is a gap, a divide between what the Commission wants, what it promotes in the media through the voice of the Commission’s President and the political whims of the leaders of the main European countries, not only those in the Netherlands. I’m afraid the project re-mapped over the past days by the French President Macron, will be the winning one. That is, the idea of an advanced cooperation between developed countries will clearly gain consistency and the whole Schengen construction will be reorganised. In other words, more likely than not there will be a Schengen made up of those countries representing the core of the union, its main nucleus and another Schengen for the others. So, if a political decision is not made within a year, a year and a half, let’s say, we stand slimmer chances to be part of the old Schengen mechanism. Actually, Emmanuel Macron made it very clear that the old Schengen system, that is the current one, is no longer functioning.”
At the moment, just like Jean-Claude Juncker wrote in a letter of intent, Brussels has proposed measures to maintain and strengthen the Schengen area. The Commission has also proposed the updating of the Schengen Frontiers Code, so that norms on the temporary reintroduction of national border controls be adapted to the present imperatives, that is to be able to answer persistent severe and developing threats to public order and internal security.