The Schengen area grows, by halves. The EU interior ministers have given the green light to Croatia’s incorporation into European free movement as of January 1, but Romania and Bulgaria are left out for now due to the veto of Austria and the Netherlands.
Croatia has received the unanimity of the Twenty-seven to enter Schengen. Austria has opposed, however, the enlargement with Bulgaria and Romania, arguing that it is a difficult time due to migratory movements in the area. This position has been joined by the Netherlands, which was willing to accept the union of Romania.
The Minister of the Interior of the Czech Republic, Vít Rakušan, who holds the rotating presidency of the Council and therefore leads the debates, has lamented the failure. “For us it was a fundamental priority”, he admitted at the end of the meeting, which lasted for several hours: “We highly value the efforts of these two countries, they have done everything that has been asked of them, the cooperation has been excellent. We are sorry for what has happened.”
The European Commissioner for the Interior, Ylva Johansson, has spoken along the same lines, assuring that the two countries meet the necessary requirements. Both she and the community vice-president for the Promotion of our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, had warned that vetoing Bulgaria and Romania would amount to an act of “discrimination”. “It is a myth and it is unfair to project the argument that the change of enlargement consists of fewer controls. It’s about more checks and better checks,” Schinas said Monday.
“Today we have lost the EU and we hope that the two countries that have placed the veto will reconsider and we will all return to the Union’s heritage, which makes us much better,” said the Spanish minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, who crossed out the result of “disappointing” given that Romania and Bulgaria had done their homework. “They deserved it because they have been fulfilling all the requirements for eleven years, passing all the evaluations, with the approval of the Commission, with the approval of 25 of the 27 countries,” said Marlaska, who has warned that the situation puts risk the “trust” between the European partners.
With the incorporation of Croatia, the Schengen area will be made up of 23 EU countries (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, and Romania are excluded) and four from outside the EU (Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland).