Bulgaria and Romania: ready for Schengen?

At today's meeting of the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council, a vote will be taken on whether Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania should be admitted to the Schengen Area from 2023. Schengen enlargement requires a unanimous decision. Both Austria and the Netherlands oppose Bulgaria's accession due to concerns about migration policy and the fight against corruption, and Austria is also against Romania's accession.

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Der Standard (AT) /

Nehammer's populism damaging Austria's reputation

The daily Der Standard finds Vienna's threatened veto completely disproportionate:

“Why Nehammer wants to 'punish' Romania of all countries for the fact that so many migrants came to Austria this year is indeed incomprehensible. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis pointed out that less than three percent of the illegal migrants who apply for asylum in Austria had passed through Romania on their way here. Meanwhile, 370,000 Romanian tourists leave 250 million euros in Austrian hotels and restaurants every year. ... At any rate, Nehammer's populism is doing enormous damage to Austria's image in Romania. He has also completely underestimated how quickly relationships and trust that have been built up over years can be destroyed.”

Jurnalul National (RO) /

Waltzing on the cliff edge

Jurnalul National says relations between Romania and Austria have hit rock bottom:

“It should be noted that Austria wants additional guarantees for border security from Romania, including from President Klaus Iohannis, in order to dismantle organised criminal gangs smuggling migrants from Ghana, Ukraine or Albania. .... The government in Bucharest knows that Vienna will put up resistance to the end, so it has launched a campaign to associate Austria with Russia and its infamous leader Vladimir Putin. For Romania, this lack of success with Austria is nothing more than a final Viennese waltz on the edge of the abyss'.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Not a constructive stance

The Dutch government is missing the opportunity to use its opposition to the move as leverage, De Volkskrant criticises:

“The coalition is looking for ways to limit migration before the important provincial elections [in March 2023]. Of course a further loosening of border controls in the east won't go down well with the public. ... The Netherlands has every right to put Europe's failing asylum policy up for discussion. ... A country that seizes this opportunity to demand better agreements on border control, registration centres at external borders, repatriation rules and European solidarity could justifiably discuss Schengen and perhaps even accomplish something. Certainly more than if it just sits silently in the corner, grumbling because the rest of the group wants to go in a different direction.”

Sega (BG) /

Only ourselves to blame

Bulgaria simply does not deserve to be included in the Schengen area, Sega laments:

“There's no point in asking why we should be excluded from Schengen. The reason is clear: we're not a real democracy. Our politicians, who've been in power for more than 12 years, have shamelessly deceived us into believing that we are a democratic country. Worse, they're also lying to the European Union. But the truth will always come out. ... We have only ourselves to blame for not having swept away these political parasites long ago. They have stolen our lives. And now they want to steal our children's lives and future.”

G4Media.ro (RO) /

Resistance on several fronts

G4Media.ro is not too hopeful:

“Despite the clear support of Germany and France, the Netherlands and Sweden - both of which have objections on domestic grounds - have yet to be persuaded. And another obstacle emerged a week ago: Austria. Vienna is struggling to cope with the large number of migrants arriving via the Balkan route and wants Schengen to be reformed rather than expanded. Austria wants a new migration and asylum pact to be adopted at the EU level, and is threatening to veto the admission of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen Area. Bucharest is in a stalemate, and it's hard to imagine that this will be resolved by the time the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council meets on 8 December.”

Webcafé (BG) /

Easy target

Webcafé has its doubts about whether the Netherlands and Austria will give up their veto:

“The Dutch parliament has passed a resolution calling on the government not to take irreversible steps towards admitting Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen Area until sufficient information is available on border surveillance and curbing corruption and organised crime. ... It is not clear whether The Hague and Vienna would support us even if they had such proof, given that the issue of Bulgaria's and Romania's membership is also readily used in the Netherlands' and Austria's internal political battles.”

Club Z (BG) /

Bulgarian politicians only have themselves to blame

Although Bulgaria has fulfilled the technical criteria for accession for eleven years its politicians have not managed to win the trust of their EU partners, Club Z criticises:

“Our political class could have focused on counteracting this scepticism during these eleven years. ... It has done the opposite. ... How can we expect people to trust us when Bulgarian domestic politics revolves entirely around the question of who is the biggest gangster? When the new prime minister's first official act is to arrest his predecessor without any legal basis? Is this Europe, if I may ask? It is not, it is the third world. And we want Europe to give us the key to its front door despite all this?”