Dutch to oppose Romania, Bulgaria Schengen bids
The Dutch government will oppose bids by Romania and Bulgaria to enter Europe's visa-free Schengen zone, including a partial entry, when EU ministers meet next week, a spokeswoman said Friday.
"It was decided by the cabinet that we are still against the joining of Romania and Bulgaria," the Immigration Ministry's Elaine de Boer told AFP.
"As the Netherlands, we will be saying 'no' at the meeting planned in Brussels next week," she said, referring to planned talks between the bloc's interior ministers that will include bids by the two countries to join the borderless zone.
Dutch Immigration Minister Gerd Leers said in June, a day after a European Parliament vote supported quick entry by the pair, that the Netherlands opposed a decision before 2012.
"We believe it's still too early. We have not seen enough to show that they have dealt with issues such as corruption and organized crime," De Boer said.
A European diplomatic source said Friday the Polish EU presidency proposed a compromise to EU ambassadors this week.
The two-step solution would see air and sea borders open by the end of October.
But a decision on giving Bulgaria and Romania dates on the land borders, "which are more controversial," would only be taken "in the next year," said the source in Brussels.
De Boer however pointed out the Netherlands government would be opposed to a two-step solution, saying "we will not even approve the partial entry."
Romania's Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu told AFP he was disappointed at the decision.
"I am sure that during the meeting a large number of states will support Romania's position," he said.
At the same time, Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said the Dutch opposition was motivated by domestic issues.
"The Netherlands has a problem within its domestic politics" linked to relations within the governing coalition, he said.
"Bulgaria and Romania have covered all the technical criteria for accession, which has been confirmed by all the expert missions."
Gaining membership of the Schengen area requires agreement from all 25 members, but Denmark, Finland, France, Germany and Sweden share Dutch reservations over Romania and Bulgarias' capacity to control illegal immigration and crime.
EU Home Affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said Friday she hoped a solution could still be found.
"The Polish presidency is working very hard to find a solution to this and they were looking at a possible way to at least partly give a possibility for Romania and Bulgaria to enter Schengen," she said at a press conference in Brussels.
The commission, she recalled, has said that Romania and Bulgaria are "technically ready" to join Schengen.
© 2011 AFP