site.btaUPDATED Foreign Minister on Support for Bulgaria's Schengen Entry
Bulgaria has never before had stronger support for its Schengen entry, caretaker Foreign Minister Nikolay Milkov said here Friday as part of a report on his term in office. Despite all efforts made, during this period the necessary preconditions for Bulgaria’s full membership were not created, he admitted.
Milkov recalled that the Netherlands and Austria had demands about Bulgaria’s Schengen membership. Sweden was a hesitant partner at the beginning but later expressed its support, which is of key importance given that country’s current EU Council Presidency. In his words, leading European countries – Germany, France, Italy, Spain – confirmed their active support, meaning lobbying, working with the European Commission, and serious efforts to the make Bulgaria’s accession to Schengen happen.
At present, the Austrian position stems mostly from their assessment of ineffectiveness of the Schengen mechanisms, and their demands are rather directed at the European Commission. Bulgaria and Romania remain hostages to these kinds of processes in the Schengen area, Milkov said. In his words, very often the policy is not fair, and it turns out that due to Schengen not working properly, those outside of the border-free area need to be punished.
“It is a fact that the European countries have gradually adopted the narrative that the Netherlands and some other skeptical countries managed to pass over the years, namely that the mechanisms for rule of law are part of the assessment and should be part of the criteria for this mechanism. This is a fact that we cannot but take into account, and that is why we made effort to convince our partners what progress we have made with the mechanism and what we have managed to change after 2019,” the Foreign Minister explained.
In his words, Bulgaria is expected to be the subject of a new report that will summarize the country’s achievements after 2019 and should show progress in relation to the rule of law. If progress is not made, this could further lead to a problem for Bulgaria’s Schengen application when it goes under review in mid-2023. “We must know exactly what criteria should be set in this report so that we can avoid all kinds of misunderstandings or attempts to say that the report does not meet the criteria, that it is not complete enough, or that individual topics have not been reviewed. We want to specify all conditions which the report must meet to be approved by the Netherlands,” Milkov said.
“Once we obtain a positive result from this report, we will have met their requirements,” he added. These are additional requirements which have only now appeared for Bulgaria, he specified. If the Netherlands approves the report, that country would be ready to take part in evaluation missions in Bulgaria aimed at proving Bulgaria’s final technical readiness to join Schengen. “If all this happens and we have Parliament’s support, we have all the grounds to think Bulgaria’s Schengen membership is possible in autumn,” Milkov said.
In his words, Romania does not strive to be decoupled from Bulgaria on the path to Schengen. It is much easier to protect a 300 km border with Turkiye than Romania introducing a Schengen border along the 600 km Bulgarian-Romanian border. There would practically be no benefit from the decoupling, he argued.