Tuesday, January 11, 2011

AFP: Romania warns against 'unfair' Schengen assessment

10 January 2011

(BUCHAREST) - Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi on Monday called for a fair assessment of Romania's bid to join Europe's Schengen visa-free zone, urging France and Germany not to change the rules of the game.

"It would be unfair to accept that two states, no matter which, could set a precedent by changing the rules of the game," Baconschi said in an interview with the daily Adevarul.

Last month, French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux and his German counterpart Thomas de Maiziere said that it was "premature" to let Bulgaria and Romania enter the passport-free travel area in March 2011.

The ministers wrote in a letter to the European Commission that a decision on the applications would be made once the two ex-communist bloc nations make "irreversible progress" in the fight against corruption and organised crime.

But Romania deems as "discriminatory" any attempt to link the Schengen issue to the reform of the judiciary, under close watch from the executive European Commission as part of a so-called cooperation and verification mechanism.

"This mechanism is becoming a handicap ... or a pretext for pressuring the two countries in other fields", Baconschi said.

"We'll have to decide whether it is worthwhile going ahead with this mechanism or whether we should denounce it unilaterally."

The minister warned that Romania could use the same argument when the 27 EU members are called upon to decide upon Croatia joining the bloc.

"We cannot accept that (Croatia join the EU) without such a mechanism while we continue to be subject to it," he stressed.

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