News 04 Mar 13

Romania Demands Explanation for Schengen Veto

Bucharest wants those countries that seem intent on continuing to block its accession to the passport-free Schengen area to explain their reasons.

Marian Chiriac

Romania's governent says it wants "all EU member states that feel reluctant about Romania’s accession to the Schengen are to clearly present their arguments... [and] we want the issue on the agenda of the EU meeting this week".

The demand, presented in a press release on Sunday, came after the German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told the weekly Spiegel that Berlin would veto Romania and Bulgaria joining the Schengen zone, if the two countries pushed the issue at the next EU meeting.

The EU's justice and interior ministers are due to meet on Thursday.

Romania and its southern neighbour, Bulgaria, had hoped to join Europe's borderless zone back in 2010.

But several powerful Schengen states, including The Netherlands, Germany and France, opposed both Bulgaria and Romania, saying the two countries had not met EU requirements on fighting corruption and organized crime and on securing Europe's external borders.

In recent months, Romania has insisted that it now meets all the technical criteria needed to control its more than 2,000km-long border, including with two non-EU countries, Ukraine and Moldova.

At the same time, the centre-left government says joining the Schengen area is no longer a national priority.

"The government has done everything it can so that the decision [on joining Schengen]... is positive and I still have hopes for that," Prime Minister Victor Ponta said on Saturday.

For his part, President Traian Basescu has blamed his political opponents in the government for the delay, saying the hold-up might be a consequence of the political crisis that erupted in Romania last summer when he was suspended from his post.

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