The countries of the European Union (EU) approved this Thursday the demand for accession to the Schengen area of Croatia, a member of the EU since 2013. The country will also join the Euro zone. However, they rejected the candidacies of Bulgaria and Romania.
The Member States of the EU approved this Thursday, December 8, the accession of Croatia to the Schengen area as of January 2023. The country that has been part of the EU since 2013 becomes the twenty-seventh member of the area where you can circulate freely without border controls.
“The Schengen area is growing for the first time in more than a decade thanks to the Czech Republic’s presidency of the Council of the European Union. Ministers approved Croatia’s membership from January 1, 2023!” reported the Czech Presidency on his official Twitter account.
The three countries have long been demanding their inclusion in the Schengen area, which includes most of the 27 states of the union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Croatia’s accession will, among other things, eliminate vehicle queues at its borders with Hungary and Slovenia and could further encourage tourism.
In January, Croatia will also join the Eurozone, which includes the 19 EU member states that have adopted the euro as their currency.
The president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola congratulated Croatia, but was “very disappointed” by the refusal of Sofia and Bucharest.
“Very disappointed with the decision to delay the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to #Schengen. Both countries are ready and deserving of this step. On behalf of @Europarl_EN I call on the @EUCCouncil to act and ensure that a compromise is found. Only then will we be truly united,” he tweeted.
Very disappointed with decision to delay Bulgaria’s and Romania’s accession to #Schengen.
Both countries are ready and deserving of this step.
On behalf of @Europarl_ENI call on @EUCouncil to act and ensure that a compromise is found.
Only then we are truly united.
— Roberta Metsola (@EP_President) December 8, 2022
Frustration at the rejection of Bulgaria and Romania
Bulgaria and Romania did not receive the unanimous support of the member countries, necessary to integrate the Schengen area. Their requests were vetoed by Austria and by the Netherlands in the case of Bulgaria.
“Today I will vote against the extension of Schengen to Romania and Bulgaria,” Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner announced on his way to the meeting. Austria is facing a sharp rise in asylum applications and fears that this removal of controls will further increase them.
For his part, the Dutch Migration Minister, Eric van der Burg, declared on Thursday that his country was concerned about “corruption and human rights” in Bulgaria and that he was asking the Commission for a new report on these issues.
The Spanish Minister of the Interior Fernando Grande-Marlaska did not hide his frustration at the rejection of these two countries and said that it was the EU that had lost, he also called to continue working for the accession of these two countries.
“They have been complying with all the requirements for eleven years, within all the procedures, passing all the evaluations and with the approval of the Commission and 25 of the 27 countries. If there is something that is one of the values that unites us all it is respect for the procedures, that when the objectives are met, it is obviously approved as it proceeds,” said Fernando Grande-Marlaska.
The German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, reaffirmed this Thursday his support for the entry into the Schengen area of Bulgaria and Romania and affirmed that his government will continue to try for both countries to achieve that objective. “The position of our government in favor of this entry is well known,” said the German chancellor.
Double veto for Bulgaria
Despite facing a veto from two countries, Bulgaria was confident about a close accession to the Schengen area.
“Nothing is lost, on the contrary, we are on the right path and we have done what is expected of us. The talks continue, we are positive and we will work to find a compromise so that the two countries that maintain reserves today agree,” he said. Acting Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev. “I think within the next year we can achieve a positive result,” he added.
The Bulgarian minister also differentiated the positions of Austria, which he considered more pragmatic, from that of the Netherlands, which decision he described as “political”.
Migration pressure at the center of concerns
By joining the Schengen Agreement, countries must assume strict control of the external borders of space, at a time when irregular arrivals at the EU’s external borders are increasing.
The rise is especially marked on the Western Balkans route, especially via Serbia, where some 139,500 irregular entries into the EU have been detected since January (not counting the Ukrainian exodus), according to Frontex, the European Union agency responsible for the control and management of the external borders of the Schengen area.
However, this figure is far from the 764,000 entries registered in 2015, at the height of the refugee crisis due to the arrival of Syrians fleeing the war.
Consequently, the European Commission presented an action plan to try to reduce the influx through this route. Brussels proposes, among other things, to deploy Frontex not only on the EU’s borders with the Western Balkans, but also between these countries.
Unlike Austria, France considers that the integration of Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen area would allow “better control of our borders”, since these three countries “have made great efforts to control their borders”, declared the French Minister of the Interior , Gerald Darmanin.
The member countries of the Schengen area must also commit to cooperate in the fight against organized crime and terrorism. Gérald Darmanin stated that “more than 1,100 human traffickers were arrested in France last year thanks to European information.”
With AFP and EFE
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