The European Commission underlined that maintaining the EU’s internal borders with Romania and Bulgaria has economic and environmental consequences for both countries and for the EU bloc as a whole, in its second report on Schengen 2023 published on 16 May 2023.
The admission of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area is among the priorities set by the European Commission for the Schengen Council meeting on 8 June 2023.
The Commission has called on the Council in its report to strengthen European unity and allow Romania and Bulgaria to fully join Schengen, says one of the seven key priorities forwarded by the European Commission (EC) as a basis for discussions at the Schengen Council on 8 June.
The other priorities set out by the EC include strengthening Schengen governance, reinforcing external borders, making return decisions more efficient, strengthening internal security in the fight against human trafficking and organized crime.
In the report, the Commission points out that it has been 12 years since the Commission reported that Romania and Bulgaria meet the accession criteria, a fact also reiterated in a communication presented by the Commission in November 2022.
EC missions to the two countries in October 2022 showed, as in 2011, that they both fulfil the conditions of the Schengen acquis, and that they also apply its latest provisions, thus helping the smooth functioning of the border-free area.
The EC report also points out that increased waiting times at borders lead to long queues of vehicles and trucks and result in higher costs, reduced competitiveness of businesses, disruption of supply chains and lower revenues for the tourism sector. Uncertainties related to border delays and administrative burdens can discourage foreign investment and undermine economic and social cohesion between Member States. There would also be an environmental cost, with around 46,000 tons of carbon dioxide emitted as a result of not closing borders, according to commissioners.
Aside from urging the Council to support the enlargement of the border-free area, the Commission has outlined other key priorities in its State of Schengen, some of which are as follows:
• Implementing an Entry-Exit System in order to secure the EU external borders
• Implementing police cooperation measures instead of internal border controls
• aligning visa policies of third-country partners with the one of the EU
• annulment of risky programs for residency and citizenship by investment
The Member States are expected to gather on June 8, 2023 at the second Schengen Council, where these priorities are expected to be discussed.