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Procedure : 2011/2853(RSP)
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Texts tabled :

B7-0532/2011

Debates :

PV 12/10/2011 - 15
CRE 12/10/2011 - 15

Votes :

PV 13/10/2011 - 6.10
CRE 13/10/2011 - 6.10
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2011)0443

Debates
Wednesday, 12 October 2011 - Brussels OJ edition

15. Accession of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the debate on

– the oral question to the Council on the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen by Renate Weber, Sophia in ’t Veld, Alexander Alvaro, Cecilia Wikström, Sarah Ludford, Filiz Hakaeva Hyusmenova, Stanimir Ilchev, Louis Michel, Metin Kazak, Sonia Alfano and Gianni Vattimo, on behalf of the ALDE Group (O-000218/2011 – B7-0628/2011),

– the oral question to the Council on the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen by Cornelia Ernst, Willy Meyer and Marie-Christine Vergiat, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group (O-000221/2011 – B7-0629/2011),

– the oral question to the Commission on the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen by Cornelia Ernst, Willy Meyer and Marie-Christine Vergiat, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group (O-000222/2011 – B7-0630/2011),

– the oral question to the Council on the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen by Claude Moraes, Ioan Enciu and Iliana Malinova Iotova, on behalf of the S&D Group (O-000223/2011 – B7-0439/2011),

– the oral question to the Council on the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen by Marian-Jean Marinescu, Andrey Kovatchev, Carlos Coelho, Mariya Nedelcheva, Monica Luisa Macovei, Elena Oana Antonescu, Simon Busuttil, Georgios Papanikolaou and Manfred Weber, on behalf of the PPE Group (O-000224/2011 – B7-0440/2011),

– the oral question to the Commission on the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen by Marian-Jean Marinescu, Andrey Kovatchev, Carlos Coelho, Mariya Nedelcheva, Monica Luisa Macovei, Elena Oana Antonescu, Simon Busuttil, Georgios Papanikolaou and Manfred Weber, on behalf of the PPE Group (O-000225/2011 – B7-0621/2011),

– the oral question to the Council on the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen area by Mara Bizzotto, on behalf of the EFD Group (O-000234/2011 – B7-0631/2011),

– the oral question to the Commission on the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen area by Mara Bizzotto, on behalf of the EFD Group (O-000235/2011 – B7-0632/2011).

 
  
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  Renate Weber, author.(RO) Mr President, the qualifying matches for the European Football Championship are taking place at the moment, which makes us all experts on football. In fact, the situation of Romania and Bulgaria can be compared to a football match which both countries have lost, not on the pitch, but through a random decision. Although they trained hard for it and played very well technically, both countries have failed to qualify for the ‘Schengen League’ because some referees decided that the original rules and fair play do not matter and have devised new rules, right in the middle of the game, which no one is actually familiar with, but which have extremely serious consequences.

I personally wish to thank the Polish Presidency for the constant efforts it has made, aimed at achieving my country’s accession to the Schengen area. However, the fact that we are debating a resolution today on a matter which we already decided by vote four months ago highlights what a tough stalemate the European Union is currently in. This is why I find it absurd that we have two versions of the truth, one from the European Parliament and the other from the Council, about the freedom of movement within Europe’s borders. I am sure that the authorities and officials in the Netherlands and Finland understand that European citizens have rights which cannot be interpreted and applied differently, according to the nationality or ethnic group they belong to by birth. However, they have given in to trivial, though vociferous domestic pressures.

If we feel a sense of responsibility, we cannot allow a new split in Europe: either east-west or north-south. This is precisely what the far-right parties are expecting, that people, feeling duped and confused, will refuse to be governed from Brussels any longer. This is why the double standards must be dropped from both the speeches made by Europe’s political leaders and from their decisions. If these double standards had not existed, Romania and Bulgaria would have already been part of the Schengen area, and this decision would have produced a positive impact on the European economy.

 
  
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  Marie-Christine Vergiat, author. (FR) Mr President, on 22 September, the Council rejected the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area. What hypocrisy! True, the Netherlands and Finland were the ones who vetoed this application, but the majority of the Member States, starting with France and Germany, seem to share their misgivings. Yet Romania and Bulgaria have now fulfilled the conditions that were imposed on new members in 2008, and they seem to be even better prepared than some of the countries that were accepted without hesitation at the time.

The need for so-called guarantees regarding the fight against corruption and organised crime has been cited. Dare I say it, that is a load of rubbish. What is the sad reality? The political developments in a number of Member States are the only real reason for this refusal. Xenophobia is increasingly undermining Europe, and fears are being played on, because the underlying reason for this refusal is still the fear of a lack of border controls, and it shows what the reality of the Schengen area is.

How does the so-called principle of the free movement of persons work if some European citizens are denied that which is granted to citizens of non-EU countries? The reality of the Schengen area is that it is increasingly becoming a security area in the strictest sense of the word, a security-based police area that allows Europe to turn in on itself. It is a fortress Europe that refuses to take in a few million Tunisians or to reach out to a few dozen Libyan refugees. The Finnish and Dutch governments’ courting of popular opinion and, hence, voters, is broadly supported in many Member States.

The Commission is the guardian of the Treaties. Can it explain to us which new criteria are going to be imposed on Romania and Bulgaria? When will the same principle of reversed qualified majority voting that is applied to economic matters be introduced for matters relating to human rights, justice and freedom? For how long are we going to let the Union drift, and for how long will the interests of the few continue to take precedence over the general interest? Yes, the European Union has a governance problem, but it is not a problem of economic governance; it is a problem of political governance.

 
  
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  Claude Moraes, author. – Mr President, the Socialist and Democrat Group also begins with the premise that Schengen is a cornerstone of the European Union and therefore, we should not create a two-tier situation in relation to the Member States of the European Union.

The continuing delay and blocking by Member States, in particular, the Netherlands and Finland, of Romania and Bulgaria joining the Schengen acquis risks creating that two-tier system for EU Member States. Bulgaria and Romania have met the criteria to join Schengen, the same criteria that were applied to each Member State that has previously joined the acquis. Furthermore, this has been judged and verified by the independent expert EU committee, yet some Member States are now taking the political initiative of blocking their accession on the basis that they have serious levels of corruption and organised crime. Of course corruption and organised crime are serious issues, but the approach to these serious issues is disingenuous and is creating a problem with one of the key principles of the European Union and its freedoms.

The EU has an ongoing evaluation mechanism to judge organised crime and corruption, but we must not pervert that mechanism in creating a two-tier system for these countries. The Member States should be treated equally and fairly. We work hard to tackle all forms of discrimination and we have to ensure that we do not allow for the creation of a subsidiarity position for Romania and Bulgaria. Of course we welcome efforts to strengthen and improve the Schengen acquis; re-evaluating any legislation is necessary to improve it and adapt it to be able to best respond to current demands and situations. However, the rules that we create must also be respected by all Member States in Council. It should not be that we negotiate EU legislation which is then ignored by some Member States and Council.

We have to strengthen Schengen and ensure that an instrument which was created for solidarity purposes across the EU – for the freedom of individuals across the EU – is not now used to divide it.

 
  
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  Marian-Jean Marinescu, author.(RO) Mr President, Romania signed the Treaty of Accession in 2005. At the same time, it undertook to comply with the obligations contained in the Schengen Agreement and fulfil the provisions included in the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism relating to justice and the fight against corruption. Both commitments include separately requirements and sanctions in the event of non-compliance. The mechanism is still applicable. The Commission drafts progress reports every year and has the option to apply the stipulated sanctions in the event of failing to comply with the scheduled phases. The Schengen road map has been fulfilled in its entirety, in keeping with current EU provisions, which was confirmed by the decision made by the JHA Council in June this year.

In addition to this, the European Council in June, including Romania, proposed a review of the Schengen criteria, but clearly stated in the conclusions that this proposal would not affect the accession process involving Romania and Bulgaria. Unfortunately, the JHA Council has not kept to its own decision in June and did not adopt any decision in September.

The situation we are in is completely unclear, with no sign of hope, where a Member State is fulfilling its obligations, but is being blocked, and we might even say, punished by other Member States without any legally justified reasons. Furthermore, according to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the Commission is the only body which can propose sanctions against a Member State.

The European Union is based on a number of principles, including trust and, in particular, mutual respect. In the current situation, I believe that the European Council needs to intervene. I call on the European Council to discuss this matter and make a fair decision based on the proper merits of both Member States, for the benefit of all Member States and the European Union.

 
  
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  Mara Bizzotto , author. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Finland and the Netherlands opposed the motion in the Council for a very simple reason: Bulgaria and Romania are not currently able to ensure effective border control and are the scene of rampant corruption involving politicians and organised crime.

These are not the words of the populist parties and movements, but of Europol in its 2010 report on organised crime. There is no populist propaganda, but a serious security problem. Were Bulgaria to join the Schengen area at this time, law enforcement and security agencies predict that Bulgaria’s borders, especially its maritime ones, would become easy targets for organised crime syndicates from Eastern Europe and Turkey, and Bulgaria and Romania would become the crossroads for trafficking of human beings and drugs.

It is natural that some Member States should have many reservations about the real capacity of Bulgaria and Romania to ensure effective border control against organised crime and corruption, and so it is quite natural that they should oppose their membership of Schengen. Allowing them in now means opening the door to transnational organised crime syndicates and opening a gaping hole in Europe’s borders where there is intense migratory pressure from Turkey.

There are many reasons to oppose this and Europe cannot ignore them. I would therefore like to know what the intentions of the Commission and Council are on this delicate question, which I think has so far been treated recklessly, without taking into account the dangers that the entry of Bulgaria and Romania would entail, according to the competent bodies dealing with security and international crime.

In my opinion, the Commission and the Council should postpone the entry of these two countries into Schengen and give the go-ahead only when there is reasonable assurance that the entry of Bulgaria and Romania will have no impact on the security of European citizens.

 
  
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  Piotr Stachańczyk, President-in-Office of the Council.(PL) Mr President, I am very grateful to Parliament and the political groups for raising this important issue and for putting questions to the Council at today’s sitting. I am pleased that the question of Bulgaria and Romania’s accession to the Schengen area is so particularly important to members of this House.

I am sure you all know that the Council discussed this matter at the meeting of 22-23 September on the basis of a compromise proposal put forward by the Presidency. It was drafted in response to fears – expressed earlier by some Member States – over the initial request for a decision on a framework for full application of the provisions of the Schengen acquis to Bulgaria and Romania.

Unfortunately, it became clear that it would be impossible to guarantee the unanimous support within the Council which is essential to reaching agreement. Therefore, the Presidency decided not to put the request for a Council decision to the vote.

Honourable Members, as you know, the Act of Accession of 2005 provides for verification through an evaluation procedure in order to guarantee that Bulgaria and Romania fulfil the conditions necessary for application of all parts of the Schengen acquis. This is an essential condition for the Council so that it can – after consultations with the European Parliament – decide on full application of the acquis and the consequent abolition of checks at internal borders and at borders between these two Member States.

These evaluations were carried out between 2009 and 2011. After completion of the evaluation process, on 9 June this year, the Justice and Home Affairs Council adopted conclusions corroborating the fact that the necessary preconditions enabling the Council to decide on the abolition of checks at internal air, land and sea borders have been met. The Council also agreed that it would come back to this matter as soon as possible and not later than September this year.

The Polish Presidency submitted a compromise proposal to the Council. This proposal provided for the gradual abolition of internal border checks: initially at air and sea borders, and then at land borders. This proposal was also the fruit of a process of intensive discussions with the Member States, including, of course, Bulgaria and Romania. As I have already said, it did not receive the necessary unanimous support.

We are still treating the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area as a priority, and we are involved in work which will enable a quick decision to be made on this matter. The Polish Presidency is determined to ensure that agreement is reached quickly on this matter, and to this end we are going to continue to work on a balanced approach which will allay the specific fears expressed by some Member States while also providing for the abolition of checks at land borders in a reasonable timeframe.

The Presidency will keep Parliament informed about this situation as it develops.

 
  
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  Cecilia Malmström, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, thank you for putting this issue on the agenda. Thank you for your support on this. As you are aware, the decision on Romania and Bulgaria joining the Schengen area is the responsibility of the Council, so it is the Council who can and who has answered many of your questions.

From the Commission’s side, we have repeatedly said that the two countries fulfil the technical criteria, they belong in the Schengen area, we support them entering the Schengen area, and we also support the numerous and very hard efforts made by the Polish Presidency. I hope that we can find a solution to this in the very near future.

 
  
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  Simon Busuttil, on behalf of the PPE Group. – Mr President, this debate and this resolution are our response to the unjustified delay by the Council of Bulgaria’s and Romania’s accession to the Schengen zone.

This Chamber has already made its position clear and we reiterate it today: namely, that Bulgaria and Romania should be allowed to join Schengen once they fulfil the entry conditions. We say this out of a basic sense of fairness and respect for the rule of law, so we are very surprised and deeply disappointed that, despite Bulgaria’s and Romania’s having fulfilled the conditions for membership – the same conditions that were applied to all the rest of us – the Council failed to ratify the decision to give them the green light.

We are told that this happened because of the opposition of two Member States – the Netherlands and Finland – which wield a veto on the decision. That is disappointing because both these countries have a strong European tradition of respect for fairness and the rule of law. As it happens, both their governments rely on the support of populist parties. I would not like to think that the reason for the blockage is that these governments are held hostage to populism, because that would be very worrying indeed. We need to stand up to populism by explaining to the public that fairness dictates respect for the rules, and that when the rules are respected, we should draw the appropriate conclusions: in this case, by allowing both Bulgaria and Romania to join the border-free area of Schengen. We should not be afraid to explain this to the public. We should not be afraid of taking fair decisions, and we should not be afraid to show political responsibility. Not to do so would be to move the goalposts after the game has started, and that is simply not fair.

 
  
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  Iliana Malinova Iotova, on behalf of the S&D Group.(BG) Mr President, I want to say a special word of thanks to Ms Malmström who is always present when Schengen is being discussed, but I am surprised that the President of the European Commission, Mr Barroso, is not among us during such a debate, which is supported by the vast majority in the European Parliament. He is obviously not interested in this or in the will of MEPs, preferring to take part in the pre-election campaign in Bulgaria rather than deal with this matter.

We are urging with today’s resolution for both the Commissioners and ministers of the Council to become fully involved in making a decision or setting a definite timetable for Bulgaria and Romania to join Schengen. This case involving the accession of both countries is an extremely serious matter because it casts doubt over the effectiveness of European law. The criteria for becoming members of this area have been fulfilled, but no decision has been made. The Council has put the Commission and all of us in a legal tangle, as it allowed new requirements to be imposed on both countries during the same accession procedure. The European Commission must issue a much tougher response to this behaviour from the Council as it is the guardian of the Treaties and oversees their compliance. The European Commission must ensure that the new package being proposed for assessing compliance with the Schengen criteria will be complied with by all Member States and will not be dependent on political realities.

Finally, I would also like to reply to Ms Bizzotto by quoting a statement made today by our Socialist colleague: ‘If we had a similar attitude to combating crime and corruption in Member States as to Bulgaria and Romania, Italy ought to have left Schengen a long time ago’.

 
  
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  Sarah Ludford, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, the EU is based on the rule of law; Romania and Bulgaria have passed the Schengen tests. It is unfair and invidious to allow populist nationalism to move the goalposts. Of course we need stricter tests for Schengen participation. In fact, it is a disgrace that Member States which insisted on keeping charge of setting the criteria failed to insert anti-corruption, the independence of judges and fighting mafia crime into them. That is what we need to do from now on, so new and existing Schengen members are properly evaluated and, if necessary, sanctioned. But, for the time being, apply the rules.

Finally, it makes no sense to exclude the UK from the Schengen evaluation process. The UK is not in the border-free arrangements, but it will be in the Schengen Information System and ought to be included in scrutiny, otherwise other Schengen states cannot evaluate the UK.

 
  
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  Tatjana Ždanoka, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, we all know there were some shortcomings on Bulgaria and Romania’s road to Schengen, but now the problems are resolved and Bulgaria and Romania are fully prepared to join the free travel area in 2011. One cannot invent new criteria for joining the Schengen area and one cannot undermine the certainty that a state may join as soon as the existing criteria are met.

My group finds it unacceptable that the Netherlands and Finland have even blocked the Polish Presidency’s compromise in the Council without formulating any convincing reasons to do so. Such action undermines European solidarity and I hope that the European Council will find a solution – as we have heard today – with the assistance of the Commission. I would like to thank Ms Malmström for this.

I myself come from a Member State which joined the Schengen area in the previous enlargement and I remember how we wanted to join the Schengen area. As such, I very much welcome the accession of Bulgaria and Romania.

 
  
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  Timothy Kirkhope, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, suggesting there are flaws in a system and acknowledging weaknesses is not intended as an attack on any Member State or the achievements of the Schengen area, but instead the logical conclusion from reflecting on a system which is no longer working properly or responding to modern challenges.

Some Member States have shown their reservations about Bulgaria and Romania joining the Schengen area – and they do this despite the Romanian and Bulgarian people having worked so incredibly hard to meet the criteria that have been set for them – but calling those reservations xenophobic or racist, as we heard a moment ago, is a cheap and unworthy suggestion.

Unfortunately, Romania and Bulgaria are the victims of the current criteria which are outdated and lack coordination with modern European concerns, concerns which should rightfully include corruption and organised crime. We have the resources through Europol, Eurojust and Frontex – and indeed OLAF – to improve the system, to find a better way forward by making sure that Member States are ready to join. By ignoring this reality, we do ourselves, the Schengen area and the Member States in question a gross disservice.

 
  
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  Dimitar Stoyanov (NI).(BG) Mr President, I am not at all surprised that double standards are being applied to Bulgaria and Romania. Double standards were applied to Bulgaria and Romania throughout the whole process of their accession to the European Union. I have been listening to us for six years in this Chamber denying that double standards are applied. Nevertheless, the negotiations were conducted based on double standards and the accession process was a glaring example of double standards because Bulgaria and Romania were separated from the other 10 countries in the fifth enlargement round. Double standards apply to the process for joining the euro. Now it is the turn of Schengen – the next example of double standards. In fact, look at who is imposing a veto – the Netherlands – a country which recently showed that it actually does not want to be part of Schengen.

The problem is not whether Bulgaria and Romania have fulfilled the criteria, nor is it even the desire of the Dutch and Finnish governments to apply double standards. The problem lies, ladies and gentlemen, in the actual system which you federalists have set up – a crazy, absurd and pointless system which needs to be scrapped and does not have any kind of practical use.

 
  
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  Carlos Coelho (PPE).(PT) Mr President, Mr Stachańczyk, Commissioner Malmström, firstly, I would like to say that all of the assessments carried out by the Council and the Member States have proved that Bulgaria and Romania comply with the rules and are ready for accession; and, secondly, Parliament endorsed that view by a substantial majority in June. Yet now, when we should be congratulating these two governments and receiving these two countries into the Schengen area, the Council is refusing to rule in favour, owing to the opposition of two Member States. It is crucial that the Council overcome this situation swiftly, so as not to exacerbate the sense of injustice and disappointment in Europe felt by the peoples of Bulgaria and Romania.

We believe Schengen is central to the area of freedom, security and justice. We have created a system in which freedom of movement is maintained and strengthened, so we need a new Schengen evaluation system. Mr President, while we are talking about free movement and Schengen, the president of the Portuguese youth organisation, who is a member of the Portuguese Parliament, has brought to my attention what is happening in Ukraine. The president of the opposition youth group has been beaten by Ukrainian police, along with other leaders, and their homes have been raided and searched without warrants. As we are talking here about ‘freedom of movement’, please allow me to say that authorities resorting to brutal intimidation deserve our clear and unequivocal condemnation.

 
  
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  Ioan Enciu (S&D).(RO) Mr President, for quite some time now, the subject of the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area has been extended well beyond a debate focusing on both countries. In fact, at the moment, it embodies all the ills which have been afflicting the European Union for some time: ignorance about European rules and treaties, populism, nationalism, the decline of solidarity and denial of basic rights, such as the right to free movement. I believe that the European Parliament has a duty to remind everyone of the values on which the European Union is founded and to condemn the selfish, anti-European behaviour displayed by some Member States, ensnared by far-right populism.

As the President of the Commission, Mr Barroso, said recently, the vote of a minority should not dictate the will of the large majority and the EU. We accept and respect the principle of sovereignty of each Member State. However, we cannot agree to one or two Member States blocking the desire of the others to take the European project forward.

The resolution which we are going to vote on tomorrow is not just about Romania and Bulgaria. We all know, including even those who are against their accession to Schengen, that both countries meet the highest standards stipulated by the Schengen acquis. Tomorrow’s resolution will actually be an indictment against populism and nationalism, and a call for compliance with the European rules and principles which some Member States have forgotten. It is the Council’s duty to take the European Parliament’s opinion into account and to act accordingly.

 
  
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  Stanimir Ilchev (ALDE).(BG) Mr President, it has transpired that saying the words ‘Bulgaria’, ‘Romania’ and ‘Schengen’ in the same sentence highlights a major paradox. The Schengen working group gave a positive assessment. The Council decided that both countries were ready. Parliament also confirmed this. Even on 24 June, government leaders agreed to adopt the decision no later than September. The obvious logic in this sequence of events has currently produced no result. Bulgaria and Romania are continuing to wait until goodness knows when. Requirements are being imposed on them which seem to have been produced on an ad hoc basis. These requirements do not derive from the Accession Treaty. They create inequality. The two Member States which blocked the accession of Romania and Bulgaria are stubbornly defending a paradox.

It must be stated outright that refusing to decide in favour of Bulgaria’s and Romania’s accession creates an unacceptable situation turning into political isolation for both countries. Our Union should not fall prey to isolationism.

 
  
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  Judith Sargentini (Verts/ALE). (NL) Mr President, this week, Romania invited the Netherlands to come and see how it monitors its borders. Romania wants to demonstrate that it is complying with all the standards. That is a nice gesture, but it is not going to help. The Dutch Government is deliberately trying to move the goalposts while the match is still being played.

The Dutch Government is on a collision course. For them, this is not about external borders, but about domestic politics. Workers from Eastern Europe are being blamed for contributing to unemployment amongst the Dutch. The government wants to show the Dutch public that it can be tough, but free movement of workers is being confused here with freedom of movement. We are robbing our own pockets. Dutch trade with both countries will be damaged. We are showing ourselves to be not just a bad neighbour, but a bad merchant as well. In the Netherlands that I know, that is usually seen as extremely detrimental.

I therefore call on my counterparts in the Netherlands to stop having national debates on the backs of Romanians and Bulgarians who want to travel freely, just as we do.

 
  
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  Peter van Dalen (ECR). (NL) Mr President, I do not support the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen, and I have three reasons for that.

First of all, both countries seem to be complying with the Schengen criteria, but these criteria are too soft and inadequate. No account is being taken of corruption, human trafficking or organised crime, and it is precisely in these areas that both countries have to do a lot more work. The European Union ought to assist them in that respect, and let us then talk about the accession again in a few years’ time.

Secondly, Schengen is under pressure. Greece and Italy are hardly able to cope with the influx of immigrants and asylum seekers any more. We first have to resolve those problems before we continue talking about Schengen.

Thirdly, Dexia also passed the stress test for banks, but this bank was rescued this week at the very last moment. Politicians are the very people who ought to keep their eyes and ears open for differences between theory and everyday reality. As far as free movement of persons is concerned, that difference in Romania and Bulgaria is still enormous.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Dimitar Stoyanov (NI).(BG) Mr President, we heard the Commissioner say just a short time ago, Mr van Dalen, that Bulgaria and Romania have fulfilled all the membership criteria. You are claiming the opposite. Please answer my question: who is lying, you or the Commissioner? If you claim that she is lying, stand up and say it to her face.

 
  
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  Peter van Dalen (ECR). (NL) Mr Stoyanov, this issue has nothing to do with this or that person lying. It has to do with two things. First of all, the criteria currently applied to Schengen accession are inadequate and should be adjusted, and secondly – as I told you already with my example of the Dexia bank – it recently fully passed the stress test, there was nothing wrong. However, now, or rather last week, that bank was rescued at the eleventh hour.

As politicians, we need to keep an eye open to what things are actually like in everyday reality and what they look like in theory. I have alerted you to this and that is why I am saying that neither of the countries are up to scratch; reality still differs too much from theory.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Corina Creţu (S&D).(RO) Mr President, I would like to ask Mr van Dalen why two Member States, Romania and Bulgaria, have to pay for what is happening in Dexia Bank. What connection does Dexia have with the Romanian and Bulgarian peoples’ aspirations to join Schengen? Do you not think that we lived long enough under communism due to the cowardice and populism in the European Union? Why do we need to pay again for your mistakes?

 
  
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  Peter van Dalen (ECR). (NL) Ms Creţu, I made the comparison with the Dexia bank because, in theory, according to the books, Dexia appeared to be an excellent bank and one where nothing was wrong. Therefore, everything was fine. Now, that is the same situation we are dealing with at the moment when it comes to Bulgaria and Romania: on the face of it, everything is fine, but the corruption, the human trafficking and the organised crime are still too big and are threatening the free movement of persons. Therefore, that needs to be addressed first, just as Dexia is now being addressed, and then, at a later date, we will be able to talk again about the accession of both countries to Schengen.

 
  
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  Philip Claeys (NI). (NL) Mr President, I am not surprised by the crocodile tears that have already been shed here, because the huge gulf between the citizens and European politicians manifests itself nowhere more spectacularly than when we talk about the abolition of borders. We all know that Bulgaria and Romania continue to face very serious problems, such as organised crime and corruption. Those are problems that will, by definition, spill over into other Member States when the borders disappear.

Moreover, there is also the problem of Bulgaria not yet having taken a number of measures in order to enhance its cooperation with Greece and Turkey on improving border management. The problem of mass illegal migration via Turkey is well known. The countries which are opposing the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area are not doing so merely in their own national interests, but also in the interests of all Member States of the European Union, because the Schengen area can only work if there is confidence that all Member States are fully complying with all conditions.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Victor Boştinaru (S&D).(RO) Mr President, I would like to ask the distinguished non-attached MEP, Mr Claeys, whether this apocalyptic picture of Bulgaria and Romania is the same one which he has presented along with his compatriot, Mr van Dalen? Has he happened to have a discussion, even just by accident or in a corridor, with representatives of the numerous Dutch companies in Romania and with the Dutch multinationals which successfully do a large amount of business in Romania, even to find out why they are attracted by Romania and why rightwing politicians in the Netherlands are against Romania and Bulgaria?

 
  
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  Philip Claeys (NI). (NL) Mr President, I have to inform Mr Boştinaru that I am not a Dutchman, but a Fleming, although we do speak the same language. I have not, therefore, spoken to anyone representing Dutch business interests in Bulgaria or Romania.

However, I do understand the feelings of those who are actually doing business there and I concur with Mr van Dalen when he says that we need to be extremely strict about any future enlargement of the Schengen area, because we have faced some serious problems. I would encourage the two Member States that are the object of today’s debate to make every necessary effort to join Schengen as soon as possible, but to do so according to the rules.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D).(SK) Mr President, I am neither from Romania nor from Bulgaria, but I would like to ask the honourable Member, since I did not have the opportunity to ask Mr van Dalen earlier, and despite the fact that I do not represent these two countries: what gives you the right to judge EU Member States that have fulfilled all the necessary conditions for joining the Schengen area, and to speak about them in the plenary of the European Parliament in the way that you did? Are your countries better than the other Member States of the European Union that are in the Schengen area?

 
  
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  Philip Claeys (NI). (NL) Ms Beňová, when it comes to managing immigration flows, my country is no better than the other countries of the European Union, and it may even be worse. However, that is not the subject of this debate.

I think it is important that the rules are applied uniformly everywhere and that, when it comes to immigration, the European public should be very seriously concerned about excessive flows of illegal immigrants. We should properly ensure that all conditions are met with every new step that is made towards enlarging the Schengen area. It is the Member States that make decisions on this: the European Council and the Member States represented there. Those are the rules and those rules should, therefore, be respected.

 
  
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  Andrey Kovatchev (PPE).(BG) Mr President, if all the Member States had abided by the rules that they themselves have adopted, not only would we have not ended up in the current financial and economic crisis in Europe, but we would not be having this debate with you today. Unfortunately, the reality in Europe is different. Member States are not abiding by the rules they have adopted. The upshot of this is that we have an economic and financial crisis and we have Bulgaria’s and Romania’s Schengen membership being blocked. The actual reality is as follows: both countries fulfilled all the criteria which were used to assess the countries that joined Schengen at an earlier stage and which were enshrined in the accession treaties. There is not a single argument to support the notion that the two countries’ accession poses a risk to the Schengen area. On the contrary, allow me to support with facts the argument that Bulgaria contributes to the security of Europe’s citizens. Both Bulgaria and Romania became part of the Schengen Information System in November 2010. Since the start of November 2010 up until 11 October 2011, according to the data, Bulgaria has provided Schengen Member States with information about the following matters: 323 persons wanted for arrest; 1 383 motor vehicles, personal documents, weapons and other personal items being sought in Schengen area countries; 92 missing persons; 1 208 persons involved in criminal proceedings in the Schengen area; 737 persons discreetly monitored; and more than 8 000 rejected visa applications for entering the Schengen area. Bulgaria and Romania always perform their duty of solidarity to all the other citizens in the European Union.

Ladies and gentlemen, especially those from the far right who spoke a short time ago, I hope that these arguments will make not only European citizens, but also Finnish and especially Dutch citizens, see that Bulgaria’s accession ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Mitro Repo (S&D).(FI) Mr President, I am from Finland. As we know, opposition on the part of some Member States has resulted in the postponement of Schengen membership for Bulgaria and Romania for the time being. Although both countries meet the jointly agreed technical criteria for Schengen membership, with Romania and Bulgaria there is a feeling that the conditions for membership should be interpreted somewhat more comprehensively. It is common knowledge that both Bulgaria and Romania have problems with corruption, organised crime and the jurisdictional system.

The core of the problem, however, is probably that Bulgaria and Romania were not completely ready for EU membership at the time of their accession to the European Union. Many political reforms remained half-complete and the EU, as is well known, has no means at its disposal for bringing its Member States under control. I do hope that the postponement of Schengen membership can be interpreted positively and, furthermore, as an incentive for Romania and Bulgaria to carry through all their reforms.

 
  
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  Filiz Hakaeva Hyusmenova (ALDE).(BG) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the arguments defending the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen have been discussed for months. They are being aired again today so that they will be heard by those who put themselves above the rules. We are reiterating today that refusing to admit these countries is unjustified and breaches the procedures, as they have proven their technical readiness. We are highlighting that double standards, even discrimination, are being applied. We are talking about a crisis of confidence in the whole EU and about political populism in the countries opposed to their accession. We are warning that we are about to turn our back on values such as equality, solidarity and cooperation. I hope that we will not become hostages to scepticism spurred on by the severe crisis. Otherwise, I subscribe to the idea of revamping the procedure for adopting Council decisions unanimously, especially when it is implemented to the detriment of legislation.

 
  
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  Csanád Szegedi (NI).(HU) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I am disappointed that we cannot draw a distinction between the case of Bulgaria and that of Romania, as it is only Romania’s accession to Schengen that I want to discuss. I am in two minds about Romania’s accession to the Schengen area. On the one hand, eliminating the existing national borders would be in the interests both of the Hungarian community in Transylvania and of Hungary itself. It would also mean the elimination of the unjust borders imposed upon Hungary under the Treaty of Trianon. At the same time, however, I also understand the Dutch and the Finns in the sense that we have to look at the crime statistics too. This is not hard to do; they are not talking about fiction, but about reality.

And what the crime statistics show is that Romania is not yet ready to be part of Schengen. Also, joining Schengen represents an extension of a country’s legal framework. I cannot support Romania’s accession to the Schengen area until the issue of self-determination for the Szekler region or autonomy for Hungarians in the Érmellék (Ier River) area has been resolved.

 
  
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  Sari Essayah (PPE). (FI) Mr President, free movement is a basic value of the EU, and is based on trust. For that reason, the situation with regard to Bulgaria and Romania must be examined as a whole, because the internal security situation of a potentially acceptable Member State cannot reflect negatively on the other Schengen states. When the Schengen rules are enforced, it is particularly important that a Member State is able to fight corruption and organised crime and that the judicial systems of countries work effectively. Bulgaria and Romania must genuinely fulfil these requirements before they can be accepted into the Schengen area.

A report under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), published in the spring, stated that both countries were showing progress but that there were still serious weaknesses. That is why the conclusions drawn by Finland and the Netherlands are, I think, clear. Technical readiness is not enough if we cannot persuade people to accept that border guards cannot be bribed. In Finland, attention has also focused on the weak position of the Roma minority and on the fact that many Roma have had to leave their homeland to apply for asylum or to beg elsewhere in Europe.

From the perspective of the security of the area of free movement, it is sensible to encourage Romania and Bulgaria to make efforts to enable their accession to the Schengen area. The next natural review date falls next spring, when we can expect to receive the Commission’s interim report.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Ioan Enciu (S&D).(RO) Mr President, I would like to ask my colleague whether, as a member of a parliament and being involved in creating proper European laws, it is natural that the first thing for us to do is to respect these laws ourselves and explain them to the citizens who elected us by our example. Secondly, I would like to ask, since many of my distinguished colleagues have raised this issue here, how they actually know what exactly is going on in Romania and Bulgaria in terms of corruption. Is it written down somewhere? Do they have spies in Romania?

 
  
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  Sari Essayah (PPE).(FI) Mr President, I do not have any spies, but instead the international media reports what is happening in Romania and Bulgaria. I have here a copy of the International Herald Tribune from early September. It says that Romanian border guards can earn around EUR 5 800 a month illegally if they look away at the right moment when someone is crossing the border with various hazardous products, for example. This says something about what the current border control situation is like in Romania.

 
  
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  President. – I am reminded of the old saying ‘It must be right; I read it in the newspaper’.

 
  
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  Emine Bozkurt (S&D). (NL) Mr President, agreements are agreements. If you move the goalposts in the middle of a match, you create distrust. What are the agreements we are making here with each other now worth? That is why it is important that we deliver on the promises we have already made. Romania and Bulgaria are now feeling that they have been treated unfairly by the Member States. After all, they have fulfilled the requirements of the agreements on accession to the Schengen area.

However, some other agreements were made in 2007, too, at the time when these countries joined the EU: those on combating corruption. According to recent Commission reports, the results leave much to be desired.

These agreements may directly impact on the European area of freedom and security. Do not get me wrong. I want a strong Schengen area with Romania and Bulgaria, one that will ensure our citizens retain their faith in a Europe without internal borders. After all, the external borders will only be as strong as the weakest link. There should be no doubt about that, but doubt there is. I therefore ask the Council how they intend to resolve this? It is my hope that you will tackle this soon, so that Romania and Bulgaria can become part of the Schengen area as soon as possible.

 
  
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  Kinga Gál (PPE).(HU) Mr President, according to a recent poll carried out by the European Youth Parliament, the majority of young Europeans surveyed, 89%, voted in favour of free movement within the European Union, the strongest consensus on any issue in the poll. The survey also revealed that the largest share of those supporting free movement were Romanian and Bulgarian young people. It is precisely these people who are being denied the opportunities for free movement provided under the Schengen Agreement. In other words, they are the ones who have now been EU citizens for four and a half years but are still unable to enjoy one of the most important components of the Community acquis, despite the fact that their countries meet the Schengen requirements. The Member States cannot change the rules in the middle of the game.

The EU has often made mistakes by applying double standards, which have proved to be very difficult to correct. I am thinking particularly of the Copenhagen criteria. So the crucial message, one which we have often expressed before but needs to be stressed again, is that we cannot apply double standards – in this case, with regard to Romania and Bulgaria. And the two Member States that are still dragging their heels need to understand this.

 
  
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  Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D).(ES) Mr President, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the plenary of the European Parliament have expressed their support for the entry of Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen acquis, because they have fulfilled the established criteria (police cooperation, data protection, a visa system and the Schengen Information System) with regard to external sea and land borders. The Council’s failure to endorse their fulfilment of the technical criteria and its postponement sine die therefore send out a worrying message, and this House clearly states as much in its resolution.

First of all, this is worrying because it implies the use of double standards, which shows prejudice, rather than the use of reliable information, with regard to the proper fulfilment of criteria; secondly, because it casts a shadow that undermines the reputation, prestige and credibility of Schengen, in terms of what it is now and what it should continue to be: a space of free movement of people and, what is more, the best expression we have so far of the idea that Europe is about citizenship and free movement of people; that Europe is something more than just the euro and the internal market, and that it has a political dimension. That is what Schengen actually means.

 
  
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  Monika Hohlmeier (PPE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, firstly, I would like to thank Bulgaria and Romania for the impressive efforts that they have made. They have not only fulfilled the technical details of the Schengen Agreement, but have also taken very specific measures at their borders in order to safeguard the external borders of the European Union. The claim that they have only met the small-scale technical requirements is simply wrong. Everyone can go to these borders and see what Bulgaria and Romania have done to bring about a massive improvement in standards and in education and training and to see the measures that have been taken to secure the external borders. In my opinion, their efforts have been significantly underestimated.

Secondly, the subject of corruption has repeatedly been mentioned, together with organised crime. I think it is right for us to discuss these matters and I also think it is right for us to take serious measures to combat corruption and organised crime within the context of the Schengen Agreement. However, laying the responsibility solely at the door of Bulgaria and Romania is wrong. There are also significant problems relating to corruption and organised crime within the Schengen countries. Therefore, against this background, and with regard to securing the external borders, I am calling specifically for the fulfilment of the Schengen Agreement in all the Member States to be evaluated, because it is necessary to ensure that all the Schengen countries meet the requirements, not only those which want to join. We need long-term safeguards and not simply short-term demands on two Member States.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D).(SK) Mr President, political decisions must enforce real solutions based on facts. Let us start with these facts.

Romania and Bulgaria adopted the Schengen acquis when they acceded to the Union in 2007. Both countries have fundamentally revised and reorganised their integrated border control systems, visibly strengthening their institutional and legal framework. This is acknowledged in all of the Schengen evaluation reports. Both countries have fully implemented the Schengen acquis, which is the sole condition for their accession to the Schengen area, under the Accession Treaty and the current legal framework of the EU. As a result, Parliament confirmed by a large majority in the resolution adopted in June this year that Romania and Bulgaria are ready to join.

I would therefore like to call on all Member States to adopt the decision to expand the Schengen area to include these two states exclusively on the basis of the Schengen acquis and the Schengen procedures that are currently in force. In my opinion, it is wrong to impose additional criteria on Member States that are already in the process of joining the Schengen area. It is therefore time for the competent authorities to adopt the necessary measures allowing Romania and Bulgaria to join the Schengen area, as they have fulfilled the list of requirements they received on signing the Accession Treaty.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE).(EL) Mr President, unified Europe is going through one of the most difficult periods in its history. Things in the economic and fiscal sector are going from bad to worse from one day to the next. The pillar of freedom of movement of European citizens also appears to be going from bad to worse.

The recent ray of hope for the European vision, for our common vision, has come from Bulgaria and Romania, two countries that have worked hard and made extensive changes to the way in which they are structured and function and that are now ready, according to all the evaluations and reports, to join the Schengen area. Their accession will show all of us that the vision is still alive and will remind everyone watching us that Europe does not only have a common currency; it also has common borders.

At this critical time when, for numerous reasons, the eyes of the world are turned on us, the European Union is – unfortunately – sending out the wrong message. It is sending out a message that, within the European family, Member States wanting to assimilate further into all sectors of European integration are – I repeat unfortunately – coming up against suspicion and mistrust from other Member States in that same family.

To close, let me be clear about one thing: it is in difficult times that you find out who your friends are. Bulgaria and Romania are our friends and partners; they have discharged all their obligations and they deserve – I repeat – to be admitted to the Schengen area immediately.

 
  
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  Tanja Fajon (S&D). (SL) Mr President, Commissioner Malmström, this is not intended as a criticism of your work, but this kind of horse-trading on rules is causing the European Union to lose credibility. The point we are making is that both Bulgaria and Romania have now met all the conditions, so the Netherlands and Finland have no basis on which to argue for a blockade. This kind of populism is highly dangerous.

Europe is in a difficult situation, and so integration and trust are even more important than ever. Besides, every previous enlargement has subsequently proved to strengthen cooperation. What is the point of having the Commission and Parliament if two countries can decide differently? We are the ones who are going to be blamed if we mess up the Schengen project. That is why I ask you, Commissioner: how can we work together to remove the blockade?

If we fail to do so, neither your work nor ours will make any sense. We have a sensitive reform of the Schengen Agreement on the table: we must maintain sobriety and wisdom and find common solutions, and ensure that we by no means undermine the foundations of freedom to travel.

 
  
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  Anna Hedh (S&D).(SV) Mr President, the removal of internal borders and the opportunity to travel and stay anywhere within the Schengen area for up to three months is a mainstay of the EU, and this is important for all of the citizens of Europe, whether they come from Sweden, Romania, the Netherlands or Bulgaria. Romania and Bulgaria meet all of the technical requirements and therefore they should also be permitted to participate in the Schengen cooperation. The Council’s blocking of these two States’ accession to Schengen is therefore against the rules. It is unacceptable to treat certain States one way and others another way, deviating from the rules that are in place. This then becomes a question of populism and nationalism in certain Member States.

I would like a specific answer as to what the intentions and expectations of Finland and the Netherlands actually are. Lastly, I would like to say that walls must not be built either within or outside Europe and the EU.

 
  
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  Eduard Kukan (PPE).(SK) Mr President, for our citizens, the Schengen area is one of the most tangible manifestations of freedom of movement within the EU. Romania and Bulgaria have the right, as Member States, to become members of this area, just like any other country in the Union. The standards and criteria for their entry must also be the same as for any other country. The final evaluation by the Schengen evaluation working group showed that both countries fulfil the criteria for joining the Schengen area and have implemented the Schengen acquis in all seven of the required areas.

As with any other measure, adherence to the principles and values on which the Union stands is also necessary in this case. These include an even-handed approach to the rights and obligations of individual Member States, and facilitation of the free movement of persons. The Member States and European institutions must realise that it is unacceptable to apply double standards in this situation. I would therefore like to call on the representatives of the Council and the Polish Presidency to start addressing this issue as soon as possible.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Mr President, today, the President of the Commission and the Presidency of the EU Council have spoken about regaining the trust of Europe’s citizens. The seriousness of, and respect for, the commitments which have been assumed will help regain this trust. Romania and Bulgaria have fulfilled their commitments in terms of complying with the criteria for joining the Schengen area. It is time for the other Member States as well to fulfil their commitments and give the go-ahead to Romania and Bulgaria joining the Schengen area.

Romanians and Bulgarians have been moving around the European Union freely since 2002, therefore roughly five years prior to joining the European Union. Both Parliament and the Council confirmed in June that both countries had met all the necessary criteria and were ready to join the Schengen area. Romania and Bulgaria should be included in the Schengen area, based purely on the Schengen procedures and acquis. Additional criteria cannot be imposed on Member States already in the process of joining the Schengen area.

On the subject of corruption, a European framework is going to be established which will apply equally to all Member States.

 
  
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  Elena Oana Antonescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, during 2011, Romania and Bulgaria have proved through the strategic measures and decisions they have taken that they have the logistical and human capacity to guarantee a high level of security at the European Union’s eastern border and that they have met all the accession criteria. This has involved a significant financial input, backed up by robust actions aimed at institutional and administrative reform.

We now find ourselves in the odd situation where, although the technical conditions have been met, which were the only conditions for accession, their inclusion has, nevertheless, been postponed indefinitely. Does the Council think that it is right for us to ask these Member States to implement these additional accession criteria right now? Rules are not made to be broken or to be changed in the middle of the game, nor can they be interpreted and applied in a biased manner. I believe that populist attitudes do not do Europe any favours. Indeed, such incidents may even set a dangerous precedent.

 
  
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  Ioan Mircea Paşcu (S&D). – Mr President, the Schengen arrangement is the purest expression of a basic value shared by the EU, namely, the free circulation of people within the Union. The fact that Romania and Bulgaria are being prevented, exclusively on political grounds, and in defiance of the signed Treaty, from having access to this space, is a sad reminder that what was integrated can equally be disintegrated. Unfortunately thus, the old policies of beggar-thy-neighbour and of finger-pointing prevalent in Europe in the 1930s are back in force, only this time not among individual states, but among members of the same organisation, the EU.

Although each country is free to pursue its national interest, let us not forget that there is no integration without a minimal solidarity and that the bad feelings accumulated today might burst out tomorrow when times are better, impeding our further integration.

 
  
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  Mariya Nedelcheva (PPE).(BG) Mr President, the actions of the European Union are based on sound logic, clear rules and clear messages. I cannot find a single one of these attributes mentioned in the arguments put forward by the Council. Postponing Bulgaria’s and Romania’s Schengen membership is a dangerous game involving a matter of major importance and entailing serious risks. The vague reasons given and any additional criteria conceal serious consequences. They are of fundamental importance in the long term. Will we defend European values and the same rules for all at European Union level, or will we give in to populism and nationalism? Corruption is a pan-European problem. When we can clearly differentiate it from the others, we will also deal with it.

In Bulgaria and Romania, the Council’s decision forms part of the image of the European Union conveyed to Bulgarian and Romanian citizens. I am pleased that, as an MEP, I will not have to change the image which some countries in the Council are creating at the moment for the European Union.

Finally, how does the Council respond to our work in the European Parliament and its reports? What is the point in us creating new rules when the current ones are not being observed? There is only one message you are conveying at the moment: Europe’s citizens do not feature on your agenda.

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (S&D).(HU) Mr President, it is beyond doubt that there is a debt crisis in the European Union, and the Schengen system is also in crisis. However, the current dispute is not a crisis of the Schengen system, but a crisis of European solidarity. To be more specific, seven years have passed since our accession to the EU. Ten countries were admitted, but we still have first-class Member States and second-class Member States. It is unacceptable that equal treatment does not prevail within the EU. Nobody who supports the admission of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area is asking for special treatment for these two countries. What we are asking for is equal treatment, since these countries have complied with the fundamental requirements for Schengen accession, as was endorsed by Parliament and the Council this summer.

I therefore urge the Finnish and Dutch populists to end the policy they have been pursuing to date. Let us not obstruct Schengen accession for Romania and Bulgaria.

 
  
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  Cecilia Malmström, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, there has been much talk about corruption today, and corruption is a disease that we all suffer from. Let us be honest: is there a single country in the European Union that has no corruption?

We intend to fight this. The Commission has presented a proposal for fighting corruption more effectively and addressing the issue in a biannual report in which we single out the problems and help each Member State to move forward – and I would like to thank this particular plenary for its support in that regard.

However, the criteria for Bulgaria and Romania joining Schengen were outlined in the accession agreement of 2005. They fulfil the criteria, and no additional criteria can be added. Romania and Bulgaria have done a lot to meet these criteria and that is why the Commission has said that they do fulfil them. That is why the Council in June said, yes, they fulfil the criteria, and that is why you, the plenary, with a huge majority, said, yes, they fulfil the criteria. Now it is time to make a decision.

 
  
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  Piotr Stachańczyk, President-in-Office of the Council.(PL) Mr President, I would like to reiterate that the Polish Presidency is still treating the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area as one of its priorities. We do truly regret that it was not possible to reach the necessary agreement at September’s meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council based on the approach we suggested. We still believe that our proposal enshrined a truly balanced approach which can and should be the basis for a decision in this matter.

So I would like to give my assurance that the Presidency is going to continue efforts to find a solution which will achieve the necessary support – which in this case means unanimous support – and will ensure that the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area takes place in a reasonable timeframe and at the earliest opportunity.

 
  
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  President. – I have received two motions for resolutions(1) tabled in accordance with Rule 115(5) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, Thursday, 13 October.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  John Attard-Montalto (S&D), in writing. – I believe that this issue is part of a far wider debate. The European Union needs to have a direction and not directions. It is imperative for Europe to be, and to be seen as, a real union. At present, Europe is not seen as a coherent entity. Because, in reality, it is not. Within the Union, a tug-of-war is being waged between those States which want more union and those States which want less union. We are trying to find compromises allowing Member States to choose and pick which initiatives they wish to participate in. Schengen is perhaps one of the best examples. But there are others like the eurozone. Selecting parts of a menu is resulting in a Europe à la carte. I have advocated that in order for Europe to be taken seriously and be seen as a meaningful power, it has to have a common project, a common aim, a common direction. This can only occur if further integration takes place. That is why – in spite of a number of difficulties – I am in favour of Bulgaria and Romania becoming part of Schengen. The more countries that participate in common initiatives, the more integrated we become.

 
  
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  Sebastian Valentin Bodu (PPE), in writing.(RO) The resolution being debated must be voted for in the form in which it was submitted. Any amendment relating to additional conditions being demanded prior to the accession of Romania and Bulgaria is a change to the rules in the middle of the game.

My country has made huge investments to come into line with border security standards, and it is now being criticised for corruption, which is, however, a problem that affects Romania in general. Romania is fighting against this scourge, perhaps more than other Member States are combating other problems that are at least just as dangerous, such as the budget deficit and sovereign debts. These are problems which threaten the very existence of the euro area and even the European Union and, by extension, the Schengen area.

When the assessment for Romania to join Schengen was carried out, the level of preparedness was also tested, along with the integrity of the border police and customs officers in this area. I repeat, in this area, because I am not ever going to be able to say that there is no corruption at the border crossing points and at customs. However, the test was passed in this area. Otherwise, the conditions for data protection, the Schengen Information System, border control (land, sea and air), police cooperation and the visa regime could not have been met.

 
  
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  Mario Borghezio (EFD), in writing.(IT) Opposition to Bulgaria and Romania joining the Schengen area is due to what should be one of the mainstays of European policy: the precautionary principle. In fact, it is to be expected that some Member States, already subject to intense flows of immigration, may be put under increasing strain with the entry into the Schengen area of two countries that do not seem to have achieved sufficient control of their external borders. This is particularly clear with regard to the border between Bulgaria and Turkey. We cannot allow the free movement of citizens unless we are satisfied that this does not lead to increases in petty crime and illegal immigration, reductions in security and risks to public order. The data on the fight against organised crime in these two countries are hardly comforting for those who desire to see a serious and effective EU policy against organised crime.

 
  
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  George Sabin Cutaş (S&D), in writing.(RO) I would like to give a reminder that Romania and Bulgaria currently meet all the conditions stipulated by the Schengen acquis. This has been endorsed not only by the conclusions of the Schengen Evaluation Working Group, but also by the firm stance expressed by the European Parliament via the resolution adopted in June this year.

Postponing indefinitely the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area reflects the lack of credibility European integration has, where the rules are made and unmade to suit the interests of certain Member States. The EU-27 is made up of first-class and second-class countries, citizens with rights and lower-class citizens, ‘old’ states and ‘new’ states, or those which have joined too early. We talk glibly about solidarity, yet we turn a blind eye just as easily when a Member State is subjected to discrimination. We encourage an outdated form of nationalism without realising that every decision like this turns European integration into an empty shell.

 
  
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  Kinga Göncz (S&D), in writing.(HU) Following the crisis in the euro area, the European Union is on the threshold of another crisis – this time in the Schengen area. Two Member States are blocking Schengen accession for Romania and Bulgaria in the Council of Ministers. This undermines the EU’s credibility and legal certainty: we cannot apply double standards! Access to the Schengen area is also a matter of trust: should the task of guarding the EU’s external borders be entrusted to a country which, according to all the assessments, fully complies with all the prescribed criteria? The answer is unequivocal: yes. Unvoiced opinions and interests are at play behind the obstruction of Bulgaria and Romania’s Schengen accession, and this is further damaging public confidence. Delaying the enlargement of the Schengen area heightens the disappointment felt by the EU’s Bulgarian and Romanian citizens. The most likely victims of this frustration will be the disadvantaged communities that are being treated as scapegoats for the delay in reaching a decision on accession to Schengen. In the midst of a crisis, the last thing the EU needs is to sow distrust among the Member States and send feelings running even higher. We must make a clear stand in support of Schengen accession for Bulgaria and Romania and introduce an appropriate Schengen evaluation system as soon as possible.

 
  
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  Cătălin Sorin Ivan (S&D), in writing.(RO) Romania and Bulgaria have fulfilled the technical criteria stipulated in the Schengen acquis, which ought to have been reflected in them joining this area of free movement. It has not happened like this, and now additional criteria may be imposed on both these Member States which were not hitherto discussed when any other Member State was joining Schengen. The European Parliament supports a Schengen area, based on the way it was conceived in 1995, without any additional, arbitrary criteria. Today, we are reaffirming our support for this pillar of integration.

However, if compliance with the Schengen acquis is no longer a strong enough argument to persuade some Member States, the weakening of European integration ought to be considered. During this deep crisis that we are currently experiencing, preventing Romania and Bulgaria from joining the Schengen area sends out a negative and dangerous signal, which may pave the way to the disintegration of the EU. I reaffirm my confidence in the political backbone of Europe’s leaders, who must adopt a fair approach to both these Member States, irrespective of nationalist fears, prejudices and exploits.

 
  
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  Lena Kolarska-Bobińska (PPE), in writing. (PL) Just as we cannot alter regulations on the conduct of elections before the vote, we should not alter regulations on accession to the Schengen area by new applicant countries. Romania and Bulgaria have worked very hard to satisfy the EU’s criteria. Member States, including those who already belong to the Schengen area, should not be telling Bulgaria and Romania now, just when they are about to reach their target, that they must start the entire process anew. We can debate the principles of reforming the Schengen system as regards future Member States of the European Union, but we cannot introduce new regulations for the current members. This is why I wish to state that I oppose the amendment tabled by our British colleagues from the European Conservatives and Reformists Group. The European People’s Party must send out a clear and coherent message on this issue. We must fight corruption in all Member States, but this report does not concern the fight against corruption. It is quite irregular that Members of Parliament representing countries outside the Schengen area should strive to alter its regulations. They should tread more carefully. One day, the United Kingdom may wish to join the Schengen countries, and what would happen if they failed to meet the ‘new criteria’ introduced by the old members?

 
  
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  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE), in writing.(RO) In order to complete successfully the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the European Union, these countries must enjoy the same privileges as the other Member States, especially when it comes to the free movement of persons. Both countries have earned this right after fulfilling all the necessary requirements for implementing the Schengen acquis.

I wish to thank all my colleagues for the support offered on this issue, and I advocate the need for Parliament to send a clear message again to the European Council. We would like all Member States to enjoy equal treatment, and I deplore the fact that the current regulations on accession to the Schengen area are NOT being observed by some countries for purely political reasons.

 
  
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  Elżbieta Katarzyna Łukacijewska (PPE), in writing.(PL) Since their accession to the European Union, Bulgaria and Romania have been hoping that the Schengen area will be opened up to them as quickly as possible. I would like to point out that the policy of small steps which has been pursued towards Romania and Bulgaria has been a success, because it has made them adopt European conventions. There is no doubt, however, that many Europeans are afraid of enlargement of the Schengen area. Problems such as the growing conflicts in North Africa and organised crime do not evoke positive emotions, neither do they engender optimism. In my opinion, if Bulgaria and Romania have fulfilled the necessary conditions, it is not fair play to delay the decision on enlargement. We need decisions which are both rapid and carefully considered. Europe must be united. All the Member States should work together, not on their own, and for the common good, particularly now during the crisis in Europe. What we need is mutual cooperation and mutual trust. These are an essential prerequisite to making decisions which are important for us and for the EU’s citizens.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D), in writing. – Recently, Parliament has turned into an institution where double standards are broadly used. Practically in all areas of activity, there exists fellowship by national principle, lobbying and uncovered unprofessionalism. If such a state of play continues to exist, then Parliament may lose its international status, and its opinions and resolutions will bring forth only a smile instead of a serious attitude. Now a decision not to give Bulgaria and Romania the right to join Schengen is false and unfair. I call on all Members of the European Parliament to stop closing their eyes and ears. We should support the right of our brothers and neighbours to travel around the EU without any restrictions, because these countries are part of the European Union.

 
  
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  Katarína Neveďalová (S&D), in writing. – (SK) I would like to express my profound concern at the low level of solidarity shown towards Bulgaria and Romania. The principle that rules should not be changed in the middle of the game applies just as much in business or politics as it does in a sporting contest. These countries have fulfilled the necessary requirements in the Accession Treaties and are ready to join the Schengen area – as the report adopted in June has already made clear. I therefore share the same position as most of my fellow Members across the political spectrum: double standards for old and new Member States are not acceptable. Meddling with the rules in this way would result in greater distrust in the Schengen acquis while, at the same time, setting a dangerous precedent that might have a major effect on future Member States. I would therefore like to express my support for Romania and Bulgaria, and to call on the countries blocking their accession to the Schengen area to reconsider their position.

 
  
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  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE), in writing.(RO) A prominent European political leader, about whom I have no doubts in terms of his good faith with regard to the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen, used a fairly bland term when confirming that both countries had met all the accession conditions and, therefore, had to be ‘tolerated’ by Europe. This is a downright awful choice of word. Romania and Bulgaria are entitled to join the Schengen area and not just be tolerated. Fulfilment of the technical conditions is the only applicable criterion in this respect. Indeed, the fact that we met these criteria was confirmed by the European experts. Any possible deviation from this principle only indicates the inclination of some political leaders towards cheap populism. They are trying to divert the attention of their own citizens, affected by the global financial crisis, away from the real issues onto other problems, created and sustained artificially.

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI), in writing.(DE) We can only congratulate the Danes and the Finns on their wise, patriotic decision. They have to put the emphasis clearly on the security interests of their own citizens. The measures taken to combat corruption, organised crime, human trafficking and prostitution in Romania and Bulgaria are still inadequate and improvements are being made only very slowly. My home country, Austria, is a particularly popular location for people smugglers from the east because of its exposed geographic position.

An EU regulation which provides for permanent monitoring of compliance with the Schengen Agreement is currently being drawn up. This should include sanction mechanisms which make it possible to close the loopholes in the individual Member States. It should also be possible to reintroduce border controls temporarily, if the security interests of citizens are being put at risk. Instead of blocking exports of tulip bulbs from the Netherlands at its borders, Romania should be protecting those borders against a very different kind of intruder.

 
  
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  Kristiina Ojuland (ALDE), in writing. – I object to the way the Council has handled the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area. For the moment, the Council has postponed their accession indefinitely, despite the fact that, according to the Commission’s progress reports, both countries had fulfilled all the required technical and legal criteria, which has also been reiterated by the Commissioner today. As a champion of transparency, the European Union cannot afford to discredit itself by applying the terms laid out in the EU Accession Treaties in an arbitrary manner. If the current criteria are deemed insufficient or incomplete, they should be amended accordingly in cooperation with the involved parties. Instead, the Council has opted for a political decision without a proper legal basis. Such discrepancies must be avoided in the future by exerting more foresight when devising any criteria that are to be applied in a uniform manner. Failure to live up to one’s principles at home also inflicts damage on the reliability of the EU abroad.

 
  
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  Justas Vincas Paleckis (S&D), in writing. (LT) The Schengen area is one of the basic foundations of the European Union, strengthening the solidarity of the EU Member States and guaranteeing the free movement of citizens. Romania and Bulgaria have fulfilled all the Schengen accession criteria. This has also been recognised by independent experts. However, certain EU Member States have mounted a political campaign aimed at preventing these two countries from joining the Schengen area for reasons of corruption and organised crime. These wounds run deep in Romania and Bulgaria. However, slamming the Schengen door shut is not the best means of healing them. The abandonment of these two nations outside the Schengen area is contributing to the creation of a two-speed Europe. I welcome the proposal that the European Council should fully analyse this issue and take an appropriate decision. I would like to congratulate the Polish Presidency of the EU, which is also seeking a solution that is as swift and smooth as possible.

 
  
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  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D), in writing.(RO) The countries of Eastern Europe were kept apart from those in the West by the Iron Curtain for several decades. Today, two European Union Member States, the Netherlands and Finland, are again attempting to isolate us from the rest of Europe. It seems that the rules have changed for Romania and Bulgaria in the middle of the game, as the accession of both states has been postponed indefinitely, even though both countries have fulfilled all the necessary criteria.

I believe that the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to Schengen must be based on the criteria which were initially established. This would at least be fair. Finally, I would like to thank the Polish Presidency for all the support it has given to Romania and Bulgaria in this process. I hope that the populist governments will not win the day.

 
  
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  Csaba Sógor (PPE), in writing.(HU) At the most recent meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, the vote on the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area was postponed again, as it appears it did not receive the unanimous support of the Member States. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that while the European Union is delaying the decision without providing a proper explanation based on European law and in keeping with mutual trust among the Member States, Romania has complied fully with the accession criteria laid down in the Schengen Agreement. Some say that the unresolved issue of Romanian corruption is the reason why the decision on accession has been delayed. Aside from the fact that there is nothing in the law that connects Schengen accession and the extent of corruption in a given Member State, do you really think that corruption problems in some Member States should prompt the remaining Member States to exclude those countries from certain aspects of European integration? I do not think so. And I do not want to see this happening in the case of Romania and Bulgaria either.

 
  
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  Joanna Katarzyna Skrzydlewska (PPE), in writing.(PL) I hope the Council will make a decision soon on the question of Bulgaria and Romania’s accession to the Schengen area. It is an important matter, not only from the point of view of the citizens of those countries, but from the point of view of all the citizens of Europe. The free movement of people is one of the freedoms which the people who live in the European Union value the most. We should not artificially create difficulties and impose additional, previously unforeseen requirements on those two countries in particular. Protection against organised crime, drug dealing or money laundering is unquestionably important, but if both those Member States have improved their controls in these areas, in accordance with the rules of the Schengen system, they should not be blocked in this way on the grounds of widespread fears about unwanted immigration, for example, when there are often no specific data to support those fears. It is not acceptable to change the rules of play during the game.

 
  
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  Rafał Trzaskowski (PPE), in writing. (PL) Bulgaria and Romania have fulfilled all the requirements set for them by the European Union, and the Schengen area should be laid open to them. We must meet our obligation towards these countries. One does not change the rules in the middle of the game, especially in times of crisis when the European Union requires closer unity and solidarity among its Member States. The problem of corruption does not affect these two countries alone, and, moreover, it did not prevent them from fulfilling the formal requirements they were set by the European Commission. Therefore, there is no reason why their acceptance into the Schengen area should be delayed. The Council should take a positive decision on this issue as soon as possible.

 
  
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  Traian Ungureanu (PPE), in writing. – The accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area should be just that: a process regulated by the norms previously agreed. Both countries took this process in good faith and prepared according to the rules. But something changed. There is a pressure to change the rules of the game during the game. This is not only unfair towards two Member States that were singled out. This is detrimental to the European solidarity principle. It happens at a most unfortunate time, when true European values are tested by radical agendas and political forces. The Schengen debate was largely absorbed by this sort of politics.

The resolution adopted today is a step in the right direction. The resolution proved that there is a consensus in the European Parliament on the need to promote the interests of a coherent and united Europe, especially in times of doubt and crisis. Romania and Bulgaria should not be treated differently. Once they fulfil the original criteria, they should be allowed to join the Schengen area. The same rules should work from now on for future candidates. The European Parliament always supported this approach. This is an excellent example of applied European politics.

 
  
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  Vladimir Urutchev (PPE), in writing.(BG) Bulgaria and Romania have fulfilled all the criteria for joining the Schengen area as they are stipulated in their legislation and treaties relating to EU accession. In actual fact, these countries are already protecting the eastern borders according to the Schengen criteria, even though, officially, they are not part of the area. These are the facts, but this is where the problems start. The EU is divided over the measures to take to exit the growing financial and debt crisis when this union’s very existence is under threat. Two countries are blocking the Council’s decision on Bulgaria and Romania joining Schengen without having any legal grounds whatsoever for this. It seems as if everyone is thinking about number one. This inevitably raises the question whether the EU can take tough decisions in such a complicated situation when the only response is more Europe, more synergy and solidarity, and not disunity and national protectionism. In light of this, the forthcoming Council meeting on 23 October will be a test of the EU’s ability and of whether its leaders are up to meeting the expectations of its citizens to take decisive actions to deal with the impending threats, which includes rejecting populist domestic policy objectives in order to save Europe. The decision on Bulgaria and Romania joining Schengen will be part of this test.

 
  

(1) See Minutes

Last updated: 26 March 2012Legal notice