The Schengen veto against Bulgaria: A threat to EU security

Bulgaria has fulfilled all the technical criteria for joining Schengen and deserves to be part of the economic space after long months of unjustified veto.

The migrant flow through Bulgaria is negligible compared to the routes passing through the territory of Greece and Italy.

In view of the extremely difficult international situation and the conflicts near the external border of the European Union, the bloc cannot wait any longer - the moment for membership of Sofia and Bucharest has long come.

Until this obstacle against Bulgaria and Romania is removed, the concept of a united, secure and united Europe will not be fully realized in the Balkans, and the security of the entire bloc will remain under threat.

Criteria met and unwarranted veto

On September 15, the European Commission officially terminated the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) for Bulgaria and Romania, introduced when the two countries joined the European Union in 2007.

EC President Ursula von der Leyen used her State of the European Union speech to call for a vote in favor of Sofia and Bucharest joining Schengen.

Two vice-chairmen of the commission also spoke in favor of Bulgaria and Romania.

"You have our full support for Schengen. All conditions for acceptance into the Schengen area have been met," said Vera Jourova recently. Margaritis Schinas took the same position. She noted in September of this year that "Bulgaria has done its homework".

In July, the European Parliament passed a resolution stating that Austria's veto had created anti-European sentiment, causing significant damage to the economies of Bulgaria and Romania. At the same time, the blockade has harmed the climate given the high levels of pollution at the borders, where trucks often wait for days.

Two main problems still face the Schengen construction - a clause in the treaty of 14 June 1985 allows member states to temporarily reintroduce border controls. In addition, the process of expanding the Schengen area requires a unanimous vote by all member states.

These issues will also be the subject of discussion at the conference "Enlargement of Schengen: Bulgaria's Key Role in the Field of Border Security" on November 7. A Bulgarian delegation, led by Emil Radev, MEP from the European People's Party (EPP), will also take part in the event.

The migrant flow through Bulgaria is negligible compared to the existing routes through Greece and Italy.

According to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex, migration through Bulgaria and Romania does not pose a great risk to the continent.

At the same time, Europe witnessed dozens of tragedies in the Mediterranean and the maritime zones of Schengen members Greece and Italy.

Hundreds of migrants trying to cross the route through Greece to Central Europe have lost their lives. In some cases, this was due to the actions or inaction of the Coast Guard and authorities.

At the same time, the southern Italian island of Lampedusa has become a deadly symbol of poor border protection and the plight of migrants.

Despite the political messages, the efforts of Bulgaria, as well as the clearly expressed position of high-ranking politicians from the EU, there is no clear way out of the situation. Bulgaria is handling the migration pressure very well, but still has to suffer huge losses due to the two-state veto. Why?

Policy decision for internal use

In recent months, the heads of government of the Netherlands and Austria have not been able to present clear reasons why they continue to block our country's accession to the economic space.

During his October meeting in Vienna with Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehamer stated: "It is unthinkable for us at the moment to expand Schengen, but this has nothing to do with Bulgaria and Romania, but is a matter of security".

The position of the Austrian politician remained misunderstood by the Bulgarian society.

For his part, the chairman of the National Council of Austria, Wolfgang Sobotka, said during his visit to Sofia that since 2015, Schengen is a "dead structure".

"If we want to get from one end of Austria to the other, we have to go through Germany, where there are already border controls in some places. "Many places of border crossings between Italy and France have been reintroduced, also on the borders of Slovakia," he added during his meeting with the Speaker of the Bulgarian National Assembly, Rosen Zhelyazkov.

The Netherlands' arguments for the veto against Bulgaria have for years been focused on corruption and organized crime - a problem on which our country has made tangible progress according to the EU institutions. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said a few days ago that "for Bulgaria, we must be strict, but fair" and insisted that the truth not be "candied" by the EU.

After all, while Austria tries to impose its concept of reforms in Schengen, and the Netherlands insists on reforms that the EC says have already been implemented, Bulgaria continues to suffer losses in the range of hundreds of millions of BGN every year. Conditions for the economy, carriers and ordinary citizens for years have been unduly harsh and cannot be sugar coated.

According to the former deputy minister of foreign affairs and former chief negotiator for Bulgaria's accession to the EU, Vladimir Kisyov, such a claim cannot constitute any excuse or motive.

"If you travel around Europe, you will see that the restored border controls mainly concern foreign citizens, not Schengen citizens and members. Again, only those people from non-Schengen third countries are checked. The veto is not justified in any other way than the internal power struggles in the own country. This decision reflects on Bulgaria and the Bulgarian people," Kisiv told BGNES.

Need for an active policy of learning from historical experience

Vladimir Kisiov, insists on more active actions on the part of the Bulgarian state, including lobbying for Bulgarian goals through EU politicians who have helped our country in the past.

In this sense, Bulgaria needs a stable government with a clear perspective and national goals. Accession to Schengen, as well as to the Eurozone, must unite the factors on which Bulgarian politics depends.

From the Romanian side, there are also calls for more decisive action, which will eventually lead to the lifting of the veto.

Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu said on September 15 that Bucharest was considering taking legal action against Austria. He stressed that if Austria again "unreasonably" used its veto at European Council meetings in October or December, Romania would sue Vienna at Europe's highest court for billions of euros, citing damage to the Romanian economy.

Schengen enlargement and Europe's security

In recent months, EU officials have announced that at the end of this year, the issue in which the two Balkan capitals are interested may find its solution. This can be done within the framework of the Spanish Presidency of the European Council. If this does not happen, the EU members of nearly 17 years will have to endure more months of deadlock.

"I expect a, so to call it, a Jesuit solution, through which the borders and the Schengen area will be opened only through the air borders. But this is not the solution to the economic losses suffered by Bulgaria", the former chief negotiator for our accession to the EU, Vladimir Kisiov, is emphatic.

And in the end, in view of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas and the instability in the Middle East, as well as the EU's desire to integrate the Western Balkans, the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen is inevitable and each subsequent a day in the conditions of veto and waiting harms not only the Balkans, but also the entire bloc.

Moreover, Ukrainian grain exports, which rely on transit through the territories of Romania and Bulgaria and are vital to global food security, will be much more secure.

A solution that suits both countries will solve the problem with the distribution of the large material and human resources that Sofia and Bucharest are currently separating. This way they will be able to concentrate on the real dangers and react effectively in case of migrant pressure and other threats. /BGNES

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Dimitar Ruskov, International News Department - BGNES Agency