Bulgaria threatens ‘countermeasures’ if Netherlands, Austria block it from Schengen

by Cristian Florescu

 Bulgaria’s caretaker government is ready with “relevant decisions, including considering possible countermeasures” if the Netherlands and Austria veto it’s joining Europe’s Schengen visa zone, caretaker Prime Minister Gulub Donev said on December 5.

Donev was speaking three days ahead of a meeting of EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers at which a decision on whether to admit Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia to Schengen is the first item on the agenda.

“In the end, despite the stated intentions of two countries (the Netherlands and Austria) to impose a veto, Bulgaria has not given up Schengen. We have three more days until December 8 in which we will spare no effort in seeking support for rethinking the position of the Netherlands and Austria,” he said.

Donev said that two inspections recently had shown Bulgaria fulfilled the criteria to join the Schengen visa zone.

He said that the Austrian embassy in Sofia had carried out an inspection and the results were positive, but unfortunately, the Dutch had chosen not to participate in these inspections.

Speaking at length after a December 5 meeting with Bulgaria’s caretaker interior, foreign and justice ministers, Donev details the efforts in recent months to secure support for Bulgaria being admitted to Schengen.

Donev described the reservations expressed by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as sounding “quite unconvincing” and contradicting the position of other member states and the position of the European Commission in support of Bulgaria joining Schengen.

The opposition expressed by the Netherlands and Austria was dictated by domestic political considerations rather than by actual shortcomings in meeting Schengen criteria, Donev said.

In a separate statement, Bulgaria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on December 5 that caretaker Foreign Minister Nikolai Milkov had held talks with the ambassador of the Netherlands, Simeon van der Burg, on the Dutch position on Bulgaria’s accession to Schengen.

The statement said that Milkov had told Van der Burg that Bulgaria fulfilled all the criteria for Schengen membership, and this had been confirmed more than once by the European Commission and the reports of the additional expert missions on inspections carried out in Bulgaria.

“Therefore, the Netherlands’ reservations remain unconvincing, especially since The Hague refused to send its representatives to the expert missions. The Dutch position is not accepted by the EU partners, is not based on relevant arguments and is anti-European,” the statement quoted Milkov as saying.

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