The European Parliament adopted on December 11 a report supporting membership in Schengen for Bulgaria and Romania, urging EU ministers to admit the two countries as soon as possible.
Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007 and have for years hoped to join Schengen, but the lack of consensus among the other EU member states has stalled their progress.
“MEPs reiterated on Tuesday their call on EU Council to take a swift and affirmative decision to include Bulgaria and Romania as fully-fledged members in the Schengen area,” the European Parliament said in a statement.
The non-legislative report was adopted by 514 votes to 107, with 38 abstentions.
According to the report, a two-step approach – first ending checks at internal sea and air borders, followed by stopping checks at internal land borders – would pose a number of risks and could negatively impact the future enlargement of the Schengen area.
Bulgaria hopes to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM2) and the European banking union in July 2019. The country meets the nominal criteria to adopt the European common currency, with its currency, the Bulgarian lev, pegged to the euro, low inflation and healthy public finances. However, the EU has demanded that the country also check its banking system due to suspicions that some locally-owned banks are not stable enough.
It is also seen as “a kind of guinea pig,” according to an official quoted by Reuters earlier in July, as Brussels is seeking to set up a pattern for all future candidates for the Eurozone.
Romania also got support in December from European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, who expressed the hope that Romania will become a member of Schengen by the end of the current mandate of the Commission that expires in October 2019.
The encouraging statements came after on November 28 the head of the European Popular Party (EPP) caucus in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, expressed his confidence in Bulgaria’s (as opposed to Romania’s) accession to the Schengen area with its air border in January 2019. His statement, linked to Romania’s problems related to the rule of law, prompted disappointment in Romania.
Nonetheless, the German Embassy in Bucharest on December 4 stated to Realitatea TV station that no consensus has been reached among Schengen member states regarding the Schengen accession of either Romania or Bulgaria.
Currently, Bulgaria and Romania apply the Schengen rules partially and checks are thus carried out at the internal borders of the two countries. The final decision on whether the two countries can become part of the Schengen area requires a unanimous vote in the Council by EU ministers.
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