MEPs call on the Council to approve the accession Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen free-travel area by the end of 2023.
In a resolution adopted on Tuesday with 25 votes in favor, 0 votes against, and 0 abstaining, Petitions Committee MEPs ask the Council to vote by the end of 2023 in favor of admitting Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area, given that both countries have already fulfilled necessary requirements for admission. They regret the Council’s decision on 8 December 2022 to reject the accession of these two countries “without presenting any legal justification related to accession criteria”. A larger Schengen area without border controls would make the EU stronger, argue MEPs.
Currently, all EU member states except Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania are part of the Schengen free-travel area, which also includes non-EU states Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The European Commission has assessed that Bulgaria and Romania are ready to join Schengen, and the European Parliament has repeatedly supported their accession, most recently in a resolution on 5 October 2022 and a debate on 14 December 2022. Next, the Parliament plenary will vote for the present resolution, scheduled for the July 10-13 plenary.
The fact that Romania and Bulgaria are still outside the visa-free travel area represents an important societal and economic burden for the businesses and populations of the two countries, MEPs say. Citizens of Bulgaria and Romania are discriminated, as they face delays, bureaucratic difficulties and additional costs when traveling or doing business abroad, compared to their counterparts in the Schengen area, says the text. Noting the waiting time at border crossings, MEPs note that the delays that Romanians and Bulgarians face can last from a few hours to even days –compared to the 10 minutes without internal border controls– which also worsens the working conditions of truck drivers.
Increase of CO2 emissions
In addition to the harm caused to the EU single market by obstructing the free flow of goods between European Member States, the text points to the “irreparable damages” for the environment, which do not align with the Union’s climate neutrality goals. The health of drivers, customs agents and people living near border crossings are endangered by the increased pollution from the many thousands of vehicles waiting to cross the border each day as ca. 46.000 tonnes of CO2 are emitted each year, MEPs say.
The resolution calls on the Commission to estimate the opportunity costs and the environmental damage that Romania and Bulgaria have experienced since June 2011 due to the “unjustified denial” of Schengen membership and encourage this institution to analyse possibilities for financial compensation. MEPs point out that the current situation “is instrumentalised by anti-EU propaganda, including Russian propaganda”, and “undermines EU capacity to promote its values and good governance in third countries”.