What are the next steps for full accession to Schengen

The implementation of the decision regarding the entry of Romania and Bulgaria with air and maritime borders into the European area of ​​free movement opens discussions on the need for a term that allows full accession. The elections in Austria, which take place in the fall, remain a decisive factor.

Partial adherence forces a decision to completely remove Inquam Photos PHOTO controls

The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, assessed that the European Executive “will have to adopt a decision to establish the date from which internal land border controls between Bulgaria, Romania and the other Schengen countries will be removed”, showing that the institution which he leadswill continue to provide the Presidency of the Council with all necessary support to ensure that a decision on land borders can be taken in the course of 2024″.

For her part, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, promised to continue the discussions and that the subject of full membership will be a priority at the end of her mandate.

At the domestic level, Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu gave assurances that the Government has a plan for Romania to join the Schengen area with the land border, by the end of the year, categorizing the decision regarding naval and air borders as “a first step that confirms that we are on an irreversible path”.

The Austrian election factor

“Together with PES activists from all over the country, we have mobilized and we are waiting for them at every entry gate to the country to welcome Romanians to the Schengen area and to say that we will continue to campaign for full accession to the free movement zone”, sent MEP Victor Negrescu, vice-president of PES, in a post on Facebook, Saturday evening.

The first non-Schengen train arrived in Romania on Sunday morning, ironically, from Austria.

Asked about the possibility of resuming attempts for full inclusion in December 2024, the MEP admitted, however, that “it all depends on the elections in Austria, unfortunately, and our ability to promote the positive results as a result of joining the Schengen area by air and sea“, emphasizing that it is “confident that this topic can be discussed and we must not give in”.

Liberal leaders, on the other hand, are more skeptical and avoid offering a fixed term. “I think we will have the opportunity in the coming months. Obviously, the discussions are permanent”, explained MEP Siegfried Mureșan, PPE vice-president, for “Adevărul”, showing that with the partial accession, in the coming weeks, “we will have the certification that Romania is not a source of illegal migration for Austria” and of the fact that “the people who arrive in Austria and apply for asylum there did not pass through Romania”.

“After our accession to the Schengen area, the exchange of data and information between the authorities in Romania and the authorities in the Schengen area will be increased, and the Austrian side will also see the fact that the people flying from Romania to the Schengen area are not people who arrived illegally in Romania“, explained the liberal leader.

The Minister of the Interior, Cătălin Predoiu, conveyed in a press release that “the cooperative relations with the Austrian counterpart ministry are very good, as well as with the European Commissioner and the other ministries of the Interior of the EU member states”again “however, the prospects of the second stage also depend on factors that are not within the scope of our country's diplomatic intervention, on external political developments and conjunctures“, such as “the decision to extend land borders will be political, just like the decision on Air Schengen”.

The importance of the migration theme in the elections

“Everything depends on the autumn elections” of Austria, pointed out the political scientist Cristian Pîrvulescu, who explained which political composition would favor the complete inclusion of Romania in Schengen. According to the analyst, the option that would favor Romania would be a popular coalition, party led by Chancellor Karl Nehammer, socialists and environmentalists. On the other hand, an alliance of the Freedom Party, representative of the extreme right, with the People's Party is the most likely option.

“The Freedom Party is very unlikely to ever accept that Romania and Bulgaria enter the Schengen area”explains Pîrvulescu, noting that in such an alliance the two formations will contest the position of chancellor, and gives the example of the Netherlands, where early elections were held.

“If the populists will not accept a prime minister from the Freedom Party, only then could we have a government that is really favorable to the accession of Romania and Bulgaria“, the political scientist pointed out.

Cristian Pîrvulescu also warned that the topic of migration is an important one in the case of the European elections in this state, but also in the case of other states included in the European free movement area. “For the rest of Europe, Schengen is about migration. (…) It is a sensitive topic because Schengen means freedom of movement, including for those who have entered a member state. Once they are in, they can go to other countries“, the political scientist also explained, showing that “Romania must find greater coherence in controlling legal migration, the 100,000 foreign workers who came per year until this year”.