Thursday 09 February 2023

Schengen: Dutch poised to say no to Bulgaria, yes to Romania

The Netherlands will support Romania and Croatia’s accession to the Schengen zone at next week’s meeting in Brussels but will say no to Bulgaria, ministers decided at Friday’s cabinet meeting.

The expansion of the Schengen zone, based on travel without border identity checks, will be voted on by EU ministers next week, and the Netherlands had been under pressure to end its resistance to Bulgaria and Romania’s membership.

The zone currently consists of 22 EU countries and four from outside the European Union.

Prime minister Mark Rutte told a press conference on Friday afternoon that the decision not to support Bulgaria’s membership of Schengen is based on fact, and is not a political decision. ‘We have taken a decent approach,’ the prime minister said.

Rutte said he did not think that the Netherlands is the only country to have doubts. ‘I think the situation is more nuanced with other member states as well,’ he said.

Appeal

Last month, Bulgarian MEPs appealed to prime minister Mark Rutte to let their country, as well as Romania and Croatia, join the Schengen area on January 1, 2023.

Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007 and the European parliament has given the green light for its Schengen accession through several resolutions since 2011.

The last vote was in October, when MEPs said that maintaining internal border controls for Romania and Bulgaria is ‘discriminatory’ and has a ‘serious impact on the lives of mobile workers and citizens.

Just days later, however, a majority of Dutch MPs voted in favour of a motion asking their government not to take any ‘irreversible steps’ to admit Romania and Bulgaria until further investigation had been carried out into corruption and organised crime.

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