Bulgaria has fulfilled all conditions, but at least until June is hostage to party battles in Austria – all wooing voters with fabricated fears about enlargement
The European Commission will send its mission to Bulgaria to gather additional information about our readiness to enter Schengen.
According to diplomats, this is the first sign of a visible change, since in 2022 a similar mission was again requested, but categorically refused.
On Monday, the Netherlands officially demanded that Brussels send this additional fact-finding mission to Bulgaria.
Already a month ago, the Acting Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, emphasized that he expected from the inspection an objective and not a “sweetened report” on the rule of law. The country of tulips is waiting for an assessment of the latest legislative changes in our country, affecting the control of the Prosecutor General, the changes for KPCONPI and the prepared constitutional changes. That’s why
this move by The Hague was interpreted by diplomats as a breakthrough
as the Netherlands had not yet made such a formal request.
In Brussels in October, outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte assessed the actions of the Bulgarian government: I know that Nikolay Denkov works very hard in his government. We want the commission to tell us whether Bulgaria fulfills all obligations and then we will decide.
I hope that the people in The Hague understand that they cannot hold both countries hostage as they have been, also stated Sofia in’t Veld, a Dutch MEP from “Renew Europe”.
Otherwise, Bulgaria and Romania are increasing their diplomatic pressure to join the Schengen area by the end of the year, but internal political struggles in Austria and the Netherlands are likely to continue to delay their membership and the economic benefits associated with it.
In recent years, both the European Commission and the European Parliament have repeatedly reiterated that the two Balkan countries have fulfilled the requirements for membership in the free travel area, and called on all members to vote for it. Yet Austria, which has no border with Romania and Bulgaria, justified its veto that they were an entry point for migrants into the EU. The remarks come despite the fact that, according to Frontex, Romania, like the rest of the bloc’s eastern border,
does not represent serious migration risk
According to data, the Bulgarian Main Directorate “Border Police” has achieved a 30 percent reinforcement of the Bulgarian-Turkish border. The result is that during the last 2 months, the number of attempts to illegally cross it is no more than 300-400 per day.
This summer, the European Parliament announced that the economic burden that keeping the two countries outside Schengen has on businesses and the population is contributing to increased prices for goods and travel.
With a volume of over 10 billion euros, Austria is the second largest investor in Romania and Bulgaria after Germany. Due to the blocking of the two countries for the Schengen area,
the Austrian one business endures serious losses – only the damage for the carriers are over 1 billion euros per year.
According to the European Parliament, blocking Bulgaria and Romania, in addition to stopping the free flow of goods between European countries, contributes to pollution and acts as an additional burden for the EU’s climate neutrality goals.
European analysts are adamant that the accession of both countries to Schengen,
there would be more meaning for the EU, because better will be managed the external ones borders
by pooling resources and securing key routes to export grain from Ukraine.
Yet the infighting of the Austrian and Dutch governments and electoral calculations suggest that they will delay Schengen expansion.
The main formation in Austria’s coalition government is the right-wing Austrian People’s Party, which uses anti-immigration rhetoric and is critical of the Schengen agreement. In addition, polls show that vetoing the expansion of the free travel area is popular among Austrian voters.
Austria will hold general and European Parliament elections in 2024, suggesting the authorities are unlikely to take such an unpopular move
to cancel your veto before the two votes
The stubbornness of the Austrian authorities is interesting, as the president Alexander van der Bellen, the mayor of Vienna Michael Ludwig, and the business in one voice support the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the free travel zone.
“Bulgaria is also part of the Schengen family, having fulfilled all the criteria for membership. I am watching very closely when he will get on board for Schengen and I am very embarrassed by the official position of my country. I do not support the actions of the Austrian government. In my opinion, this is a very bad move. This has nothing to do with Bulgaria, but rather with the internal problems in my country”. said European Parliament Vice President Evelyn Regner, an Austrian lawyer and politician.
Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Cholaku even accused Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehamer of falling under Putin’s influence because of the import of Russian gas and not letting his country and Sofia into Schengen.
The Dutch argument for not admitting Bulgaria revolves around the presence of organized crime and corruption in our country. However, Sofia has successfully completed the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism and, according to the European Commission, we have made progress in the fight against corruption and judicial reform.
The Netherlands will hold a general election on November 23. Depending on the composition of the next government, The Hague could eventually overturn its veto, but that is unlikely to happen for the December 4-5 summit of EU interior ministers, when Sofia’s entry is expected to be voted on again and Bucharest in Schengen.
Delaying the Schengen negotiations will further delay the economic benefits for Bulgaria and Romania from joining the passport-free zone and potentially increase anti-European sentiment in both countries. More importantly, delayed Schengen membership could fuel anti-EU sentiment in two countries where the political elite is generally pro-European, which could translate into greater support for Eurosceptic parties in the June 2024 European Parliament elections.
Thus, despite the efforts of the Bulgarian and Romanian authorities in recent months, entry into Schengen for the two Balkan countries will be postponed not because of unfulfilled conditions, but rather because of the political battles in Austria and the Netherlands.
“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, as they say, and Brussels cannot afford a lack of unity or coherence on free movement. If a country deserves to be part of Schengen, it should be admitted.” thinks the journalist and analyst Christian Gerasim in a material for “Euronews”.