Bulgaria confident despite Dutch 'no' for Schengen

17th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov expressed confidence Saturday about a solution to Bulgaria and Romania's bids to join the free-travel Schengen zone, despite Dutch opposition.

"Let us leave the Polish (EU) presidency to work on finding a solution.... Bulgaria's interests should not weigh less than the government coalition agreement in the Netherlands," Mladenov told a press conference.

The Dutch decision to block Sofia and Bucharest's bids to join the EU's passport-free travel zone was "linked to internal differences in the ruling coalition" in the Netherlands, he added.

Mladenov slammed as "incomprehensible" and "a refusal of dialogue" the recent cancelling of a planned Dutch parliamentary hearing on the Bulgarian position.

The Dutch government said Friday that it would oppose Sofia and Bucharest's Schengen bids, including a partial entry, when EU interior ministers meet next Thursday.

The decision effectively blocks an overall EU agreement on Schengen enlargement as it requires approval by consensus.

A failure of its efforts to secure Schengen accession, even if partial, would be a huge blow to the ruling right-wing government of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov ahead of the October 23 presidential and municipal elections.

Bulgaria and neighbouring Romania had hoped to dissuade the Netherlands and several other EU member states from demanding to see more results in the fight against crime and corruption in addition to the purely technical criteria for joining Schengen.

The two EU newcomers were also open to a French-German compromise proposal for two-stage accession with an initial opening of sea and air borders by end-2011 to be then followed by an opening of the land borders.

And Mladenov threatened on Saturday that Bulgaria will in turn block a larger Schengen reform planned by the EU Commission if its accession is postponed sine die.

"If a reasonable decision is taken on September 22, we will support the reform of Schengen legislation. If not, we should re-examine our position," Mladenov said.

The European Commission unveiled on Friday draft legislation that would give it a big say in the reintroduction of border controls in Europe's passport-free travel area, despite opposition from nations refusing to hand Brussels such powers.

© 2011 AFP

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