Extending the Schengen area to include Bulgaria and Romania
- Checks should be eliminated at Romania’s and Bulgaria’s land, sea and air borders with Schengen countries
- Current border checks have a negative economic impact and undermine citizens’ trust
- Croatia should also join Schengen as soon as the required criteria have been met
EU ministers should admit Bulgaria and Romania to the border check-free Schengen area as soon as possible, MEPs urge.
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 non-legislative report was adopted by 514 votes to 107, with 38 abstentions.
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, say MEPs. The decision should therefore be taken in the form of a single legal act.
Parliament also calls on EU Ministers to decide on Croatia’s Schengen accession as soon as Croatia has successfully met the required criteria.
Negative consequences of internal borders checks
The deferral of Bulgaria’s and Romania’s full accession to the Schengen area has brought about negative consequences not just for the two countries, but also for the EU as a whole, say MEPs.
They highlight that maintaining internal border controls or reintroducing them in the Schengen area undermines citizens’ trust in the European institutions and integration. It also has a negative economic impact on the EU’s internal market and exports and imports to and from Bulgaria and Romania, MEPs stress.
They also underline that the enlargement of the Schengen area or the free movement of EU citizens should not be negatively impacted by the shortcomings in other EU policies such as asylum and migration policy.
Rapporteur Sergei Stanishev (S&D, BG) said: “Today the Parliament went beyond its repeated calls for immediate accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area by insisting on full accession with all borders – land, maritime and air. We categorically reject partial accession, as it not only lacks any legally sound justification, but also entails a number of economic, social and political downsides for the whole EU.”
Parliament gave its green light for Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen area in June 2011 and has reiterated its position several times afterwards.
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.