German politicians blame Romania for Schengen roadblock

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Two German conservative MEPs on Wednesday (10 April) accused Romania’s Socialist government of hindering Bulgaria and Romania’s entry into the Schengen area, contradicting Berlin’s statements that the two nations were weak on justice and corruption.

German MEP Manfred Weber, vice chairman of the European People’s Party, praised Bulgaria for its preparation for Schengen membership, despite Germany’s 7 March veto that blocked its and Romania’s Schengen accession.

The Schengen accession hasn’t been successful because the Romanian government of the last three years has been dealing with constitutional issues in a counterproductive way, Weber said.

Speaking at a public event in Brussels, Weber said Romania and Bulgaria “always come as a package, the reason why Schengen enlargement didn’t take place lies with Romania, not with Bulgaria.”

But the main point Weber made is that Socialists in Bulgaria and also elsewhere were “making promises they cannot keep.”

“When they won elections, we saw only disappointment. When we look at our neighbour France where François Hollande promised all kinds of things, growth is decreasing, unemployment is rising, debt is rising, and that’s just what happens when the Socialists take power,” he said.

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said recently that Bulgaria and Romania do not meet the criteria to join Schengen.

“There are some areas of weakness, such as in the functionality of the judicial system, that prevents us from saying: abolish the borders,” said Friedrich, as quoted by Deutsche Welle, adding that a wave of impoverished people could migrate to Germany in search of better social services.

“We have to look at the whole picture in the country as it regards organised crime, the functionality of the judicial system and corruption,” Friedrich said.

Friedrich is from the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU). Weber and Markus Ferber, CSU members in the European Parliament, both used a conference in Brussels to blame Romania for the Schengen setback.

Bulgarian politician defends reforms

The highly politicised public event, organised by the Brussels branch of the Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung, featured as its main guest Tsvetan Tsvetanov, former vice prime minister of Bulgaria.

Tsvetanov is seen as the ‘number 2’ in the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) of Boyko Borissov, who resigned on 20 February amid public protests over inflated electricity bills.

Tsvetanov said that the GERB government had made great progress in the fight against organised crime and in improving the functioning of law enforcement in Bulgaria.

The European Commission, however, reported shortcomings in the areas of justice and home affairs in Bulgaria in its regular reports under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism.

When Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU on 1 January 2007, shortcomings remained regarding judicial reform and the fight against corruption. In the case of Bulgaria, problems also remained regarding the fight against organised crime.

A Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) was set up to assist both countries with judiciary matters after their EU accession. The last report on Bulgaria, published in July 2012, focuses on organised crime and the failings of the law-enforcement.

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