Merkel non-committal on Bulgaria's Schengen bid
German Chancellor Angela Merkel refused to say Monday whether Berlin would back Bulgaria's bid to join the European visa-free Schengen zone in 2011, but praised the country's efforts against corruption.
"This decision will be taken only in November, so I cannot say anything about it today, but you can be sure it will be fair and honest," Merkel said after talks in Sofia with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
Merkel said Germany was closely following Bulgaria's preparations to join Europe's visa-free travel zone, especially the country's efforts to curb corruption.
EU newcomers Bulgaria and Romania are aiming to join the Schengen zone in March 2011 but their preparedness has yet to get the EU greenlight.
"Important steps have been taken lately, such as in the fight against crime and corruption," Merkel said. "We have noticed considerable progress."
Failure of either Bulgaria or Romania to join the visa-free zone will not jeopardise Schengen entry for the other, the German chancellor assured.
"Germany always proceeds the same way -- we check whether the criteria have been fulfilled and we do this for each country individually. That's what we will do with Bulgaria," Merkel said.
The chancellor also guaranteed that Germany's assessment would not be influenced by the recent expulsions of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma from France, noting the Roma issue had "nothing to do" with the countries' Schengen bid.
Bulgaria's Premier Boyko Borisov meanwhile vowed: "I assure you that if you back Bulgaria's Schengen entry, we will double and triple our efforts to really become a trustworthy external border of the EU."
© 2010 AFP