Sofia ready for Schengen but aware of obstacles: minister

11th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Bulgaria will be ready to join the Schengen visa-free zone in March 2011, Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov said Thursday although he added Sofia was aware that political reasons might delay accession.

"By March 2011 we will be technically ready to join the Schengen area," Mladenov told a press briefing in Sofia.

"But we are fully aware that the political situation in Europe at the moment and the pressure of public opinion create a context that should also be taken into consideration," he said.

Mladenov's statement followed a warning late Wednesday by French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Pierre Lellouche, who urged EU members to hold off on their decision to let Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen area.

Both EU newcomers are still under close scrutiny in Brussels regarding internal affairs and the reform of the judiciary, with key EU progress reports due next summer.

Sofia and Bucharest's Schengen accession should not be decided until after the reports were published, and not in March 2011 as initially planned, Lellouche urged.

Mladenov noted Thursday that there was no formal link between Schengen accession and judicial reforms.

But he added that Bulgaria's government and judiciary should be "very careful" over the coming months and keep up their good work, both on preparing technically for Schengen and continuing judicial reforms in order to avoid a postponement.

© 2010 AFP

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