The European Commission maintained its position that Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area is a matter to be settled within the shortest delay possible at the Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) held in Brussels, December 6-7. Obtaining an actual accession date now depends on the two countries’ taking all necessary steps before the European Council.
“The Commission’s position remains constant, namely that of supporting Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area as soon as possible,” reads a joint press release issued by the Romanian Ministry of European Affairs (MEA) and Ministry of Administration and Internal Affairs (MIA). “There are no new requirements and the Commission reasserts that Romania and Bulgaria meet all the criteria and wishes for the two countries’ accession to the Schengen area to take place as soon as possible,” noted EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, as quoted in the press release.
The presence of Romania’s accession issue on the agenda of the December 2012 JHA meeting has sparked quite a debate at home, as Prime Minister Ponta and President Basescu fueled their electoral feud from this source as well. Bureaucratic requirements might calm the spirits down as, in fact, Romania and Bulgaria received a confirmation of their having met the Schengen pre-accession requirements at the European Council held in March this year. It is expected that a request for a firm accession date will be submitted and answered at the same level, namely on the occasion of the European Council to be held in December this year.
Moreover, Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area will not be approached during the December 2012 JHA Council because Holland and Germany are still expecting a report on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, but the matter will make it to the JHA Council agenda in March next year, according to MIA State Secretary Marian Tutilescu.
“For the time being, this matter is not under debate. […] The subject will most probably be approached next year, within the first formal council, because in January there will be a first informal council organized by the Irish presidency,” noted Tutilescu during a press conference. “No decisions are made by the informal council; the first actual council will be held beginning of March and I hope that the matter will then be included on the agenda and that a positive decision will be made. We have every reason to hope for it,” concluded Tutilescu.
Tutilescu, who acts as Chief of the Schengen, European Affairs and International Relations Department within Romania’s MIA, said that if the JHA Council in March 2013 decided to accept Romania’s request to join the Schengen area, such a decision would come into force from the last Sunday of March 2013 for air and maritime borders. In this scenario, the accession decision could apply to terrestrial boarders sometime before the end of 2013.
Romania has been struggling to join the Schengen area for the last two years, but it has met disagreement among member countries, which feared, among others, lack of border security, especially as Romania’s borders are external EU borders. Romania and Bulgaria need the ok from all Schengen member states to join.
Ioana Jelea, email@example.com