+44 (0)20 7799 6677

EU Schengen Shambles

Civitas, 2 February 2011

So far, 2011 is not proving to be a very decisive year for the EU. A month of mulling over Hungary’s untimely media clamp-downs, a series of vague statements urging ‘dialogue’ as the protests in North Africa escalate, and now, dithering over what to do with Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the EU Schengen zone (due in the next couple of months). With several member states openly voicing opposition against the countries’ imminent entry, there is growing confusion as to how the ‘readiness’ of the two countries should be assessed, and even whether they should be allowed to enter the Schengen zone independent of one another.

There are currently 25 members in the passport-free travel zone (22 EU states plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland). Bulgaria and Romania, the newest of the EU member states, were hoping to increase this number to 27, by March 2011. Although the two eastern Europe countries must surely have been aware of the undercurrent of EU unease regarding their entry to the Schengen area, they were perhaps given a false sense of hope that the March deadline would be met when member states remained mute on the issue at the December 2010 EU Summit. However, later in December, France and Germany moved to block their entry, sending a letter to EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, stating that their accession would be ‘premature’. The underhand way of delivering this decision has incensed the Romanian President, Traian Basescu, (who referred to the letter as one of ‘discrimination’) but it hasn’t stopped it from gaining a clamour of approval from other ‘concerned’ member states.

The letter has raised support for additional tests to be introduced for Bulgaria and Romania before they are allowed to join the Schengen zone, in particular, using the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) as an indicator for readiness. The CVM, which was developed to monitor and assist Romania and Bulgaria with their necessary judicial reforms, is not linked to Schengen entry and the two potential Schengen members are not keen on this latest suggestion.  Attention seems to have turned to Hungary, which took over the rotating EU Council of Ministers Presidency in January, to resolve the squabble but, they seem equally unsure. Hungary was a keen supporter of meeting the March accession dates – indeed the entry of the 2 states to the Schengen zone was a key priority for their presidency. The entry date then became June, the end of their presidency.  By this week, Hungary had announced that, due to a crowded schedule, their entry may in fact be subject to a ‘much longer delay’.

Although there is still cause for scepticism over Romania’s state of preparedness, the Romanian President has a right to be chagrined.  Romania has, in fact, met the check list of technical criteria that all the current Schengen members had to meet, it is Bulgaria that has floundered, failing to adequately secure its border with Turkey. Having joined the EU together and faced many of the same internal structural problems (which have caused much unease amongst other member states) Romania and Bulgaria continue to be lumped together… but now Romania  is touting the possibility of going it alone as it has technically fulfilled all of the necessary criteria. Nevertheless, Hungary’s interior minister, Santer Pinto, has previously said their shared border means there can be no separate consideration.

The rough handling of the Schengen furore serves as a reminder – Bulgaria and Romania may have successfully joined the ‘EU club’ in 2007, but they’re not really members of the inner clique and are unlikely to be so anytime soon. It’s hardly surprising to hear President Basescu return to the rhetoric of a ‘two-speed Europe’ – when they have met the same criteria as older member states, why should they have to strive for further goals?

The EU should not be afraid to stand its ground and apply extra tests if it is concerned about vulnerabilities, that is one thing that should have been learnt from the Eurozone crisis! The Schengen zone is such that the weakness of one is damaging for all and it looks like there are a number of legitimate reasons to be concerned about the level of security at Bulgaria’s borders. But, why has the EU buried its head in the sand for so long?Allowing the ‘goal posts’ to be shifted at the 11th hour betrays an inexcusably slap-dash attitude to a serious matter. Without stability and fairness throughout its decision making process, the member states will never reach the consensus that is so badly needed.

2 comments on “EU Schengen Shambles”

  1. Schengen is a catastrophe; as a direct result of this “agreement”, the Greek border is now literally overwhelmed by immigrants from all over Africa and the Moslem world. Is this remotely sane or sensible at a time of recession? When the threat from Islamic extremism is growing? When the host populations of Europe are increasingly aged and sterile? The transparent rationalisations of this shambolic state of affairs need not detain us for a second. Immigration brings miniscule, short term economic benefit – valued in Britain’s case at a few pence per person by an all party committee of the Lords. Long term it will bring division, resentment, loss of identity and bloodshed. Large, dependent, backward Moslem ghettos will furnish a warm sea in which the terrorist fish can swim. Already they are sensibly diminishing freedom of expression and speech – think of Theo van Gogh. So what is the EU up to? As a poisonous nexus of scarcely penitent Marxists, it is clear to many that their motives are sinister. When will the long suffering public of Europe seize the initiative and topple these creatures into the mire where they belong?


Keep up-to-date with all of our latest publications

Sign Up Here