Germany to veto any bid by Bulgaria and Romania to join Schengen area


Germany has indicated that it will veto any attempt by Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen area, if a vote takes place on Thursday.

European justice ministers gather in Brussels on Thursday for a two-day meeting, which will be chaired by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.

The issue of Bulgaria and Romania’s accession to Schengen is on the agenda after a decision on the issue was postponed last year. It is not clear yet if a formal vote will be taken on the contentious issue at Thursday’s meeting.

Bulgaria and Romania have been seeking access to the passport-free zone since joining the European Union in 2007.

While the European Commission has backed their bid, there has been resistance from some member states.

Though the European Parliament voted in 2011 to grant permission, this decision was overturned by member states, including the Netherlands, which raised concerns about corruption.

German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said Germany would use its veto to block the deal if Bulgaria and Romania demand a vote on Thursday. The Schengen agreement allows for free movement between Europe’s borders, although Ireland and Britain are not part of the scheme.

The issue of Bulgaria and Romania’s eligibility for Schengen has surfaced at a time of debate in Europe and particularly in the UK, on immigration from the two countries.

From January 2014 Bulgarian and Romanian nationals will gain the right to live and work elsewhere in Europe, prompting expectations in some quarters of an “influx” of immigrants from these areas.

Temporary controls

While their citizens were permitted to travel within the EU on accession in 2007, member states were permitted to impose temporary controls on their work rights for up to seven years. Ireland has already lifted its restrictions, but the UK’s restrictions will expire at the end of the year.

Bulgaria is in the throes of a political crisis, following the resignation of its prime minister last month amid widespread protests about standards of living.