Dutch Migration Minister Eric van der Burg says the Netherlands will not lift its veto on Bulgaria’s Schengen membership.
Spain’s Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska expressed hope that Bulgaria and Romania would join Schengen at the next Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in December, but van der Burg disagrees.
“We want an independent mission to establish the facts first,” van der Burg said. “Then we expect a report from the European Commission saying that Bulgaria has not only adopted the necessary laws related to the rule of law, but is also implementing them.”
Spain currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union and has emphasized that Bulgaria and Romania’s accession to Schengen is a top priority. Grande-Marlaska said Madrid will do its best to reach an agreement at the JHC meeting on December 5-6.
“I’m sure it’s possible,”Grande-Marlaska said. “We’re going to do our best to get an agreement in December. We’re trying to reach that agreement, and I’m crossing my fingers, but we’re working very hard on it.”
Austria & Netherlands Veto
Austria and the Netherlands vetoed Bulgaria’s membership in the passport-free zone on December 8, 2022, citing concerns about the EU’s migration policy in Bulgaria.
On October 19, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson praised the results of an EU-funded project in Bulgaria and Romania to fast-track asylum and fund border technologies. Johansson emphasized that EU pilot projects have brought “very good results” in stopping people who are not entitled to asylum from entering these countries and sending them home.
These initiatives were launched in March as part of efforts to convince Austria and the Netherlands to allow Bulgaria and Romania to join the visa-free travel zone in December. Bulgarian authorities have intensified their efforts to convince Austria and the Netherlands that Bulgaria deserves to be part of the Schengen Area.
Earlier this month, Bulgarian authorities welcomed the President of the Austrian National Council, Wolfgang Sobotka, who visited Bulgaria’s border with Turkey. Sobotka expressed his appreciation for Bulgarian authorities’ efforts to protect the EU’s external borders and called Bulgaria an important partner of Austria.
Bulgarian Interior Minister Kalin Stoianov previously said that Bulgarian authorities have stopped 160,000 irregular border crossing attempts since January 2023, compared to 100,000 irregular border crossing attempts recorded during the same period in 2022.