Romania wants decision on Schengen in first half of 2011

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Romania wants a decision to be made on its Schengen entry bid during the first half of 2011, Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi said Wednesday, in response to French and German opposition.

"Our main goal is to see a decision on Schengen accession during Hungary's presidency of the European Union," in the first half of the year, Baconschi told a group of foreign journalists.

"We have done our homework and the seven assessment missions have confirmed that Romania is ready," he added.

Bucharest was hoping to join the visa-free Schengen area in March 2011, but France and Germany have voiced their opposition, linking the move to "irreversible progress" in the fight against corruption and the reform of the judiciary.

Baconschi said authorities were determined to step up efforts in this field. But he blasted the "false arguments and artificial links" France and Germany allegedly resorted to in order to block Romania's accession.

"We have had to meet very strict technical criteria ... and have spent more than a billion euros" ($1.3 billion) to tighten border controls, he said.

"We would like to see Europe play by the rules and not apply double standards to newcomers. The risk exists that Romanians become more eurosceptical," he warned.

The Schengen zone of 25 member states and more than 400 million people currently allows free movement without border controls from Finland to Greece and from Portugal to Poland.

© 2011 AFP

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