Netherlands under mounting pressure to allow Schengen area expansion
The European Commission is putting mounting pressure on the Netherlands to finally let Bulgaria and Romania join the Schengen area and scrap border controls. According to Europe, there is absolutely no reason to continue to block this “historic decision,” something that the Netherlands has been doing for 11 years, the Volkskrant reports based on a European Commission report.
In the report, the Commission said there is “no doubt” that Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia meet all the conditions to join the passport-free Schengen area. The Commission urged the member states to give the green light for Schengen expansion in December, fulfill the EU’s “promise” to these three countries, and meet their “legitimate expectations.”
All the Bulgarian Members of the European Parliament recently sent Prime Minister Mark Rutte a letter with a similar appeal. “Decisions on the enlargement of the Schengen area should not depend on the national agenda of one Member State,” they said.
The Netherlands is the only EU Member State blocking the expansion of the Schengen area, which requires a unanimous decision by the EU countries. The Commission ruled in 2011 already that Romania and Bulgaria, EU members since 2007, were ready to join the Schengen zone. There was opposition among Member States, citing concerns about corruption, crime, and fraud as reasons to keep the border controls. But after significant reforms by Sofia and Bucharest, all member states except the Netherlands have agreed.
The irritation about the Netherlands still dragging its feet is tangible in the European Commission’s report, according to the newspaper. “Further delay must be avoided,” the Commission wrote. With war and growing migration flows, mutual trust and unity are more important now than ever. “There is no doubt that the Union is ready for this historic decision.”
Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia are prime examples of proper and full implementation of all Schengen requirements, the Commission said. That includes effective surveillance of Europe’s external borders, visa controls, preventing illegal migration and crime, cooperation with European agencies, and respect for human rights.
In an attempt to convince the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Romania asked experts from the Member States to visit them in October and again assess their readiness. The results “conclusively confirm” that these Member States respect the Schengen rules, the Commission said. The Netherlands did not participate in this fact-finding mission, calling it not detailed enough.
The Schengen area consists of 26 countries, including 22 EU Member States. The 420 million residents of these countries can travel within the Schengen area without a passport. The lack of border controls also facilitates the trade and transport sectors.