Romania is ever closer to joining the free-movement Schengen area.
Seeking Schengen membership for more than a decade, a status it has so far been denied because of the reticence showed by some EU member states, Romania looks like it may after all soon join the free movement area. On Wednesday, the European Commission called on the Council to immediately take the necessary measures to allow Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia to fully participate in the Schengen area. The Commission said Romania has high-quality and strong border management and is involved in international border police cooperation. Moreover, it is active in two priority areas: the fight against irregular migration and trafficking in human beings. Concerning the respect for fundamental rights, Romania has effective structures in place to guarantee access to international protection respecting the principle of non-refoulement, the Commission also notes.
"It's high time to say welcome," said the EU's home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, adding ""The wait has been long, I should say, too long." The EU official said the three countries meet all requirements for accession:
"Schengen is one of the biggest achievements of the EU. Those connections grow the internal market, they grow economies. Schengen grows people's standard of living - pure and simple. 22 MS and 4 associated countries are in Schengen. Now it is time to include three more. [...] Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia had strongly proven that they have met all these conditions. They have the tools, structures, and procedures in place to manage external borders, including possible security threats."
In reaction, Romania's prime minister Nicolae Ciucă said this is one more positive assessment of the country's bid to join Schengen and reflects its readiness in this respect. The interior minister Lucian Bode also hailed the European Commission's statement:
"Romania is ever closer to joining the Schengen area. The European Commission has again confirmed that Romania continues to fulfil all necessary conditions to enter the Schengen area and is adequately implementing the Schengen acquis. The conclusions of the report are positive and show that all technical conditions are met for Romania to become a Schengen member as soon as possible."
A decision with respect to the accession of Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia to Schengen is to be taken on 8th December, if there is unanimous agreement among EU ministers for home affairs and justice. The Netherlands, which has previously opposed Romania's entry on account of the shortcomings of the Romanian justice system, has in the meantime developed a more nuanced position, while still having some reservations, which commentators explain rather through the internal political situation. (CM)