MEPs urge member states to allow Romania and Bulgaria to join free travel Schengen zone


The European Parliament has urged EU countries to allow Romania and Bulgaria to join the Schengen free movement area as soon as possible.

Both have been members of the EU for 15 years, but remain outside the passport-free zone due to being politically blocked.

On Tuesday, MEPs voted overwhelmingly in favor of Bucharest and Sofia’s bid to join Schengen, with 547 votes in favour, 49 votes against and 43 abstentions.

European lawmakers argue that maintaining internal EU border controls is discriminatory and affects the lives of people and workers.

According to Dragoș Tudorache, a Romanian MEP and former Minister of the Interior, the two countries have already fulfilled the necessary conditions.

“As far as the Schengen criteria are concerned, the two countries are ready to come together, which is something that we here in Parliament have also been saying over these years through all the resolutions that we have tabled,” he told Euronews.

“The issue has been, during all this time, blocked at the political level, and that is where the effort must be made at this time.

“And based also on the debate we had in Parliament and the political signals that are going to go through, the (EU) Council in December will finally achieve this important milestone in the evolution of Schengen policy.”

The decision is not binding, but adds pressure on EU countries to welcome the two states.

The bloc’s interior ministers will vote on the matter in December. If approved, all physical checks at the internal borders of Romania and Bulgaria could disappear from 2023.

However, not all countries agree. The Dutch previously expressed reservations about the two countries joining Schengen, but openly deny their opposition.

“The Netherlands is not opposed to Romania’s accession to Schengen, but we must do it in a transparent and fair way,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.

“Sufficient positive steps need to be taken, and the rule of law needs to be structurally improved.”

Some political groups in the European Parliament also do not want Romania and Bulgaria to join the free movement zone yet.

Patricia Chagnon, an MEP from Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party and the Identity and Democracy Group, told Euronews that more guarantees on border protection are needed before accepting any new Schengen member.

“We have seen in recent years that Europe’s external borders are not protected, so our concern is security within the Schengen area,” Chagnon explained. “So we want to wait and we want to have insurance, before we have more additions, that we can really protect our external borders.”

Schengen enlargement requires unanimity among EU countries when they vote on the issue, meaning any disagreement between them would be decisive.

Currently, all 27 EU states except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, and Romania are part of the borderless zone, with four non-EU states, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein, also forming part of it. .


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