The EU Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council discussed today, on 22 September, the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area. In practice, the accession would mean that internal border checks be lifted at the borders between Bulgaria and Romania and the other EU countries. ‘Finland considers that it is yet too early to make a decision on the accession of these two states to the Schengen area,’ said Minister of the Interior Päivi Räsänen at the JHA meeting. ‘Even without accession, citizens of Bulgaria and Romania may still travel in Europe in accordance with the principle of free movement,’ continued Ms Räsänen.
‘Bulgaria and Romania have worked hard to be able to join the Schengen area. However, the situation in these countries should be assessed as a whole,’ said Ms Räsänen.
Before the decision on accession is made, Finland would like to see Bulgaria and Romania gain further progress in combating corruption and improving the judicial system. ‘The states still have room for improvement in these areas,’ stressed Ms Räsänen.
Finland's position is clear and consistent. ‘In addition to committing to rules, one needs to comply with them. The existence of wide-ranging corruption endangers compliance with the rules. Progress in combating corruption and improving the judicial system would increase mutual trust within the Schengen area. Mutual trust is of key importance in the Schengen system.’
Finland does not support the proposed compromise on the two-phased accession where internal border checks would be lifted first at air and sea borders and then at land borders by the end of this year. ‘The states should be fully ready to join the Schengen area when the abolition of internal border checks starts,’ Ms Räsänen said.
The Commission has prepared legislative proposals on the governance of the Schengen area. Finland considers it important that the reforms to strengthen and improve the Schengen system will proceed. ‘This legislative development is part of the whole Schengen system,’ emphasised Ms Räsänen.
Finland is committed to regularly assessing the readiness of Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen area. In Ms Räsänen's view, their readiness could be reassessed in early 2012.M
For more information, please contact Ms Laura Yli-Vakkuri, Director-General, tel. +358 71 878 8250