September 19, 2011
Romania has blocked imports of Dutch flowers and bulbs. Oficially the national phytosanitary agency is checking them on suspicions they may contain a mysterious bacteria…
Well, not so mysterious, in fact. Bucharest obviously tries to send a message to The Hague, after the Dutch immigration minister repeated that his country would veto Romania and Bulgaria’s bid to join the EU’s Schengen border-free space. The EU Home affairs ministerial on 22 September is expected to take a decision regarding Romania and Bulgaria’s Schengen bid. The Dutch position is that the customs in these countries cannot be trusted because of widespread corruption. France and Germany appear largely to share this view.
Romania and Bulgaria see this as foul play, because the Commission finds that both countries have covered all technical requirements to join Schengen. The Polish EU Presidency is working hard to negotiate a compromise: Bulgaria and Romania joining Schengen with their ports and airports, the land borders joining at another time.
Would this suffice? Bulgaria has in fact been even more critical. The country’s foreign minister Nickolay Mladenov said on Saturday that if the country would not be admitted to Schengen on 22 September, Sofia would veto the proposed Schengen upgrade, which was requested by France and Italy.
Bulgaria will hold presidential elections on 23 October and a Schengen setback would be a blow for the ruling party GERB of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who has put a lot of personal ambition in the Schengen target. GERB has recently announced its candidate, Rossen Plevneliev, a rather popular government minister and entrepreneur. But according to most recent polls, Plevneliev is now neck to neck with Socialist candidate Ivailo Kalfin, a current MEP. This comes as a nasty surprise for Borissov.
I just heard comments that if Bulgaria and Romania would engage in a collision course, older EU members would soon make them regret such a decision.
Logically, instead of making waves, Sofia and Bucharest should better deliver on the judicial system reform. It would be realistic to expect a breakthrough after some progress becomes visible.
Who cares about the Bulgaria elections anyway? And who among leaders cares about Schengen, except maybe Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström? On the other side, one can hope for the best after May 2012, that is, after the French presidential elections. Then all the Schengen flowers could blossom.Georgi Gotev