Romania and the EU
Mar 7th 2013, 16:47 by L.C. | BUCHAREST
“IF Romania and Bulgaria insist on a vote, the attempt will fail because of a German veto," said Hans-Peter Friedrich, the German minister of the interior in an interview with the news website of Der Spiegel, a German weekly. Both countries must take further steps to prevent migrants abusing the system, Mr Friedrich added.
Romania and Bulgaria were hoping to find out of the date of their admission to the passport-free Schengen zone today at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. But Germany (and Finland) say both countries are not ready. According to Mr Friedrich, who is a member of the conservative Bavarian Christian Social Union allied to Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said that they have to do much more to fight corruption. Mr Friedrich also argued in favour of penalties for those who come to Germany only to get social-welfare benefits.
Thanks to Mr Friedrich’s warning, Victor Ponta (pictured above), Romania’s prime minister, decided not to insist on a vote on the issue at the summit. Traian Băsescu, the president, agreed with the government’s position, but insisted that the country should ask for a new deadline either in September or December this year. “Romania’s major aim is to get into the Schengen zone and no sacrifice should be big enough to make this happen, not even sacrificing the country’s corrupted people”, he said. Mr Băsescu added at least seven countries oppose his country’s membership in the Schengen zone mainly because of the report by the EU’s Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification (CVM on the (lack of) progress on judicial reform and the fight against corruption in Romania.
In the latest CVM report published in January this year, the European Commission criticised Romania for failing to meet demands on protecting democracy and the rule of law and urged the government to accelerate its reforms. The report underlines that the justice system had to face political pressure and anti-corruption prosecutors were undermined. The Commissioned expressed concerns regarding “the lack of respect for the independence of the judiciary and the instability faced by judicial institutions.”
It is not the first time Romania is denied access to the Schengen area. Bucharest has been trying to acquire membership for the last three years. In 2012, the Netherlands oppose Romania's admission, arguing that the previous CVM report, published last July, didn’t show enough progress. This report was released in the middle of a political crisis that damaged Romania’s credibility. In 2010, France was the first country to point out that Romania and Bulgaria are not ready yet to join the Schengen zone. Pierre Lellouche, who back then was France’s state secretary for European affairs, expressed his concern about the Romanian-Moldovan border "because of the distribution of Romanian passports outside their border".
For Romanians the Schengen membership (if ever they get it) will not bring a major change. They have been able to travel around Europe only with their ID or passport since 2007 when their country became an EU member.
Even so, another Schengen membership postponement is a setback for Romania. As long as the Romanian parliament continues to block the prosecution for corruption charges of high-profile politicians and Romanians rely on bribes to solve their daily problems, the country’s integration into the EU will not be completed.