EU delays Schengen membership for Romania and Bulgaria

European Union plan to admit Romania and Bulgaria to Schengen area of borderless travel has been blocked by Germany and EU members who are concerned over corruption and combating organised crime.

Updated: Mar 08, 2013, 17:29 PM IST

Brussels: A European Union plan to admit Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area of borderless travel has been blocked by Germany and few other EU members who are concerned over the two nations` "weak spots" in areas like fight corruption and combating organised crime.
The justice and home affairs ministers of the 27-nation EU, who met in Brussels yesterday, decided to postpone a decision on the two nations` application to join the Schengen till the end of this year, Ireland`s minister for justice, equality and defence Alan Shatter said.

There were a number of member-nations opposed to admitting the two former east bloc countries to Schengen and their concerns were of a "political nature," Shatter told a news conference after the meeting.

"The council decided to address this issue again at the end of 2013 with the intention of moving forward on the basis of a two-step approach," Mr Shatter said.

This implied that border controls for air travel may be abolished initially and it will be followed by opening the land borders.

German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said the two nations, which became members of the EU in 2007, are not yet ready to join the Schengen zone.

The European Commission had established that Romania and Bulgaria have fulfilled the technical requirements to join the Schengen area.

But, Mr Friedrich said that alone will not be enough to abolish the border controls with them.

As before, there are some "weak spots" in both countries, especially in the area of judiciary and fighting crime, the minister said.

"The security of our citizens is at stake and there will not be any compromise.

"Germany is also concerned that lifting the border controls with Romania and Bulgaria could lead to an influx of migrants seeking social security benefits.

Several German communes have already been facing a surge in "poverty migration" from eastern Europe.

Therefore, Germany wants to make sure that there are provisions to sent back those people who do not seek any employment and become a burden on the social security system.

The EU had in the past postponed on several occasions a decision on admitting Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen area. Besides Germany, the Netherlands and Finland also are sceptical about their membership.

A decision to lift the border controls with the two nations must be unanimous by all EU member-nations.

The agreement of Schengen in Luxembourg initially abolished the border controls between Germany, France and the Benelux countries in 1985. At present, 26 nations are members of the Schengen area, which has a population of more than 400 million people.