Romania losing patience with Bulgarian co-bid to join Schengen Area

A Croatian border police officer crosses the road at the border between Croatia and Slovenia at the Bregana border crossing, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. (AP Photo)
By Dénes Albert
2 Min Read

Romania is considering decoupling its application to join the European Union’s borderless Schengen Area from Bulgaria’s, the country’s prime minister, Marcel Ciolacu, has revealed.

According to U.S. news outlet Bloomberg, “the Romanian prime minister said Bucharest could consider separating its Schengen candidacy from Bulgaria’s effort if negotiations lead to a better outcome.”

Ciolacu also said he would ask the Spanish government, which currently holds the six-month rotating EU presidency, to hold an extraordinary meeting of the EU Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council in December to reconsider Romania’s Schengen bid.

The meeting will take place after the Dutch elections on Nov. 22 when the political calculations could change. Bulgaria has expressed fears since early October that Bucharest may want to be decoupled from Sofia for Schengen membership.

However, a possible decoupling from Bulgaria is legally complicated. Decisions are taken unanimously in the JHA Council, so even if Romania’s plan escapes Austria’s veto, it risks running into Bulgaria’s veto if decoupling is not well negotiated.

Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu called it a “profound injustice” that Romania has failed to join the EU’s visa-free travel zone, saying he would call for an extraordinary meeting and consider legal measures to break the deadlock.

He accused Austria of vetoing Romania’s effort to join the Schengen Area, which guarantees free movement within the EU bloc. In an interview in Bucharest, the prime minister stressed Romania’s solidarity with its EU and NATO allies as a neighboring state to Ukraine that has helped channel exports from the war-torn nation.

“Romania is the one that has taken on the lion’s share of the transit of Ukrainian exports,” Ciolacu said in his office on Monday. “It is a necessity for Europe to have Romania and Bulgaria in Schengen.”

Of the EU’s newcomers, only Bulgaria and Romania are not yet part of the Schengen Area after Croatia joined the zone in January this year.

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