European Parliament says ”YES” for the 6th time to Romania’s  Schengen membership

The vote in the European Parliament plenary on 18 October says it all: The EU wants Romania and Bulgaria to join the Schengen area!

The European Parliament has adopted a Resolution on the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area. It is the sixth resolution on the subject, calling for the rapid entry of the two countries into Schengen. It seems absurd to the majority in the EP that this subject is still under discussion. Indeed, it is absurd, given that already in 2011 the EU Council concluded that the necessary conditions had been met. The following areas were covered: data protection, air borders, land borders, police cooperation, the Schengen Information System, maritime borders and visas. These are exactly the issues that are also mentioned in the resolution that we have just adopted.

In fact, our country has been ready since 2007, when Romania became a member of the EU. Romania has been obliged to respect the Schengen rules since then. Therefore, Romania de facto fulfils the Schengen obligations, but does not enjoy the Schengen benefits. These two elements should go hand in hand.

Why is Romania not yet a full Schengen member?

The logical question arises: if the legal and technical requirements of Schengen have been met, why is Romania not yet a full Schengen member? The answer lies in national political interests. Strangely, Schengen membership is more politicised abroad, in other member states, than inside Romania. All Romanian political forces are behind the goal of accession – a rare case of unity in our political landscape.

The issue is politicised outside Romania, mainly for internal electoral reasons. Schengen membership is presented as a privilege that other member states may or may not grant. When in fact, this membership is a right based-law and a prerequisite for a functioning EU internal market. And the victims are multiple. Truck drivers lose dozens of hours because of long border crossings. Businesses lose profits because of delays. Citizens are stranded – and rightly, feel humiliated – in passport control queues. Mobile workers suffer delays, people discriminated against at the border…. The personal and economic cost of non-compliance with the Schengen regime is high! Our environment also suffers from increased emissions from lorries at borders.

This obviously frustrates Romanian citizens. And the same is entirely true for the Bulgarians.

11 years of injustice

Citizens are well aware that the issue of Schengen accession is being instrumentalised for opportunistic reasons. They know that this deadlock is artificial and they can’t bare it much longer. For the sake of Romania and for the sake of the EU as a community of values, I sincerely hope that all members of the EU Council will put aside their selfish political interests. I hope that on 8 December, during the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting, the EU Council will vote “YES” for Romania in Schengen.

If our membership is delayed again, I would not be surprised to see Romanians and Bulgarians protesting in the streets. They will boycott the goods of those who oppose accession. Our citizens are tired of waiting, and their angry reactions are justified. They are truly deprived of free movement in the Schengen area. Although, all the conditions are met and all the institutions have repeatedly agreed on this since 2011. 11 years is a long time to wait peacefully for something that is rightfully yours, don’t you agree?

All European institutions want Romania in Schengen

Also note that the European Parliament is not the only one fighting this battle. The Commission has also called for the long-awaited Schengen accession. Today, the Commission, as guardian of the Treaties, has to be quite clear with the Council on the protection of citizens’ rights and their freedom of movement. The Commission should therefore inform the Council of the political and legal consequences of a further delay in the adoption of the Schengen decision by the Council. No Member State should have the right to arbitrarily block one or more Member States from the Schengen area. There is only one European Union and all Member States are equal – in 2022 and with a war at our borders, it is dangerous and worrying to witness any other behaviour.

Romania and Bulgaria are part of Schengen. We all have a window of opportunity between this plenary vote in October and the Council meeting in December. This should be a moment of responsibility for all Member States. It affects the future functioning of the EU single market. We are all going through a difficult time – European citizens are juggling multiple difficulties. In this context, Schengen enlargement is essential to ensure the smooth functioning of the EU single market – our key tool to overcome the economic crisis.

Obviously, Romania must also play its part. It should move full speed towards Schengen accession and use every opportunity to ensure unanimity in the Council. If this goal is not achieved in December, Romanians should reassess their voting position in the Council accordingly.

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