The negative attitude of the Netherlands and similar stance from Sweden could result in the de-coupling of Bulgaria and Romania in terms of their Schengen membership, EURACTIV Bulgaria learned from sources in Sofia and European institutions.
Those close to the matter say it seems increasingly likely that in December, EU leaders will support the admission of Croatia and Romania while Bulgaria will remain on the sidelines, which would be a huge political blow for Sofia.
The political process is further driven by the apathy of the parties represented in the parliament, which are mainly concerned with rewriting the country’s electoral law, along with a lack of a stable government in Sofia and upcoming elections.
The leading Bulgarian parties seem to have no interest in the caretaker government scoring a major political success such as Schengen membership, which proved to be an unattainable task for three regular governments of Boyko Borisov, EURACTIV sources said.
Schengen membership would be a political asset for the caretaker government of President Rumen Radev, which is also perceived as a problem by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, whose leader Kornelia Ninova is in conflict with Radev.
The big European political families have no one to give a political gift to in Sofia because of the political crisis and the lack of a regular cabinet.
On 16 November, the European Commission called for Croatia, Romania, and Bulgaria to be admitted to Schengen without delay.
Bulgaria and Romania fulfilled the membership criteria several years ago, even before Croatia joined the EU in 2013. However, Schengen enlargement is decided by the consensus of its members, and such has not been achieved at the moment.
On 18 October, MEPs once again called for the admission of Bulgaria and Romania, stressing that free movement is at the core of the European project.
But on 20 October, the Dutch Parliament passed a resolution stating that the Netherlands should oppose the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen border-free area.
On 8 December, EU justice and home affairs ministers will vote on the Schengen accession of the three countries.
Reports from recent expert inspections have shown that Bulgaria has implemented robust border management with surveillance and systematic checks of the external borders. The country is said to have the necessary structures to ensure respect for fundamental rights by guaranteeing access to international protection.
Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson announced that an additional inspection mission was in place in the three countries from Tuesday after the Dutch parliament and Sweden demanded more information on visas and data protection concerns.
According to information obtained by EURACTIV from MEPs, a new declaration may be passed in the Dutch parliament next week, which calls for the decoupling of Romania from Bulgaria.
Speaking to EURACTIV, Bulgarian MEP Petar Vitanov (S&D) called for a “general mobilisation of Bulgarian society, parties and institutions” to achieve Schengen membership.
“Bulgarian parties must activate their international contacts. This would be an extremely harmful and discriminatory decision, which can only strengthen anti-European sentiments in Bulgaria,” said Vitanov.
Last month Romanian MEP Vlad Gheorghe (Renew) said in an interview for EURACTIV Bulgaria that no one in his country is seeking the decoupling of Bulgaria from Romania.
“Nobody in Romania talks about Bulgaria as something bad…There is no public statement or public opinion in this direction. Romania’s perception of Bulgaria is quite positive. We are good neighbours. But now, everyone in Romania is starting to get disillusioned with the Dutch. You are considered a victim of Dutch politics, as are we are,” he commented.
On Sunday, former Bulgarian foreign minister Solomon Passy said on the national TV channel BNT that Bulgarian diplomacy made a big mistake by green lighting Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession before sorting out the Schengen issue.
Sweden adopted a negative position after Sofia welcomed it to join NATO.
(Edited by Georgi Gotev/Alice Taylor]