Home News Bulgaria and Romania still failed in the Schengen area, Croatia should return

Bulgaria and Romania still failed in the Schengen area, Croatia should return

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Romania and Bulgaria will still have to wait before entering the Schengen area: Austria vetoed this enlargement on Thursday, December 8, while a positive decision was expected, except surprise, for Croatia. “I will vote today against the enlargement of Schengen to Romania and Bulgaria”Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner announced as he arrived for a meeting with his European counterparts in Brussels.

Austria, which is facing a sharp increase in asylum applications, fears that the lifting of border controls with these two countries will further increase the arrival of migrants. “This year we have recorded more than 100,000 illegal border crossings into Austria”he said.

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The European Commission and Parliament have been calling for a long time to include Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria in this vast area (22 countries of the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) within which more than 400 million people can travel freely, without internal border controls.

Three questions on the modification of the European treaties supported by Macron and Von der Leyen

A unanimous decision

Membership, which must be decided unanimously by the Member States, would in particular have the effect of eliminating the long queues of vehicles at the borders of these countries and of encouraging tourism. In return, the Schengen member countries must assume rigorous control of the external borders of this area of ​​free movement, and commit to police cooperation to fight against organized crime or terrorism.

Croatia (3.9 million inhabitants), member of the EU since 2013 and which will join the euro zone next January, expects a positive response.

In addition to Austria, another Member State, the Netherlands, is hostile to Bulgaria’s entry into Schengen. Dutch Migration Minister Eric van der Burg explained on Thursday that his country has concerns about “Corruption and Human Rights” in this country and asked for a new report from the Commission on these points. “For us it’s a yes to Croatia and a yes to Romania”he said.

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Resumption of irregular arrivals at borders

But currently the case of Romania (19 million inhabitants) is procedurally linked to that of Bulgaria (6.5 million). The two former communist countries entered the EU in 2007 and have been knocking on Schengen’s door for more than ten years.

The question of the enlargement of the Schengen area is back on the table as irregular arrivals at the EU’s external borders are on the rise, after having seen a drop during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The surge is particularly marked by the Western Balkan route, where some 139,500 irregular entries into the EU have been detected since January, according to Frontex. A figure, however, far from the 764,000 entries recorded in 2015, at the time of the refugee crisis.

Migrants, those “undesirables” whose lives matter less

But the situation has notably led Austria and the Czech Republic to reintroduce border controls. And pushed the European Commission to present an action plan to try to reduce the influx by this route, as it did recently for the central Mediterranean route. Brussels proposes, among other things, to deploy the European agency Frontex not only at the EU’s borders with the Western Balkans but also between these countries.

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The Commission also calls on those states (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia), whose nationals do not need a visa to travel to the EU, to align themselves with the visa policy of The union. Serbia, accused of contributing to the increase in migrant arrivals in the EU, has started to do so, by stopping to exempt Tunisians and Burundians from visas.

Like Austria, Belgium says it is overwhelmed by an influx of asylum seekers, many of whom have already been registered in another EU member state or have an asylum procedure in progress there. The Belgian Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, Nicole de Moor, organized a meeting on Wednesday with several of her European counterparts, demanding “the correct application” of the Dublin regulation which provides that the country of arrival in the EU of a migrant is in charge of his asylum application.

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