Dutch oppose Romania's Schengen bid, for now
The Netherlands will not approve Romania's integration into the Schengen zone until it sees "irreversible" progress with justice reforms, the Dutch minister of European Affairs said Wednesday.
"We have to be convinced that we are on a track that guarantees sustainable, irreversible and lasting progress" in justice reforms, Ben Knapen told reporters in Bucharest, asked when The Hague would give a green light to Romania's entry into the visa-free zone.
Though hailing Romania's progress in the fight against corruption, Knapen emphasized "that there is still a lot to be done", after a meeting with Romania's minister of Foreign Affairs Teodor Baconschi.
The European Commission is due to publish a monitoring report on justice reforms and corruption in Romania and Bulgaria in the summer.
But the Dutch minister said even a positive report might not be enough to convince his country.
"It is hard to imagine that on the basis of one report you can talk about irreversible and sustainable progress" in justice reforms, he said.
"I am sure that we will have discussions afterwards on how we translate the report into new actions."
Baconschi for his part acknowledged "diverging" views between his country and the Netherlands on the Schengen bid.
"I think we should separate the two issues: Schengen and justice reforms", he said, stressing that Romania should be judged by the same criteria as other states included in previous enlargements.
Romania wants to enter Schengen in 2011, joining 22 EU nations plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland whose citizens can travel without passport.
The Balkan country hopes not to fall victim to growing Schengen scepticism among European states.
After Romania, the Dutch minister of European Affairs will pay an official visit to Bulgaria, another Schengen candidate.
© 2011 AFP