German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has reaffirmed his support for Bulgaria and Romania's bid to join the Schengen Zone, emphasizing the importance of expanding the borderless area for the German government. His statement came during a joint press conference held with Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov in Berlin.
"His comments came during a joint press conference with Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov in Berlin."
One of the key topics discussed was the issue of illegal migration, which has been a concern for Austria and the Netherlands and has led them to oppose the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen Zone last December. Prime Minister Denkov highlighted the significant progress made by Bulgaria in addressing this concern.
"Asked about the illegal migration, Bulgarian Prime Minister Denkov stressed that his country made significant progress in this regard, which was among the main concerns of Austria and the Netherlands that led to oppose the accession of both states to the Schengen Zone in December last year."
Chancellor Scholz expressed gratitude for Bulgaria's efforts in enhancing border security measures, acknowledging substantial improvements in this regard. Both Bulgaria and Romania have been eagerly awaiting Schengen Zone membership for over a decade.
"During the press conference, Scholz also said that he is grateful for Bulgaria’s efforts to advance border security measures in Bulgaria, emphasising that there have been huge changes made in this regard." "In addition, the Minister said that authorities in Bulgaria have prevented 160,000 irregular border crossing attempts since the beginning of this year, compared to 100,000 registered in the same period last year."
In addition to their Schengen aspirations, Chancellor Scholz also voiced support for the Western Balkan states' accession to the European Union. He cited a commitment made by the EU in Thessaloniki 20 years ago and emphasized the importance of advancing this process, including North Macedonia, in cooperation with Bulgaria.
"Scholz said that now is the time for the Western Balkan states to become members of the European Union, mentioning the fact that 20 years ago, the EU made a corresponding commitment in Thessaloniki. I hope that this will also happen in close cooperation with Bulgaria."
Bulgaria's Minister of Internal Affairs, Kalin Stoianov, expressed optimism that both Balkan countries could join the Schengen Zone by the end of the year. He highlighted the dedication of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union to facilitate this process.
"Recently, the Bulgarian Minister of Internal Affairs, Kalin Stoianov, also expressed his hopes that both Balkan countries would be admitted to the Schengen Zone by the end of this year, emphasising that the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union will do anything for the finalisation of this process."
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has also endorsed Bulgaria and Romania's Schengen membership, citing their exemplary practices in asylum and returns, along with strengthened border protection measures.
"Last month, the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said that both countries should acquire membership to the Schengen Zone without further delays. According to von der Leyen, both states have been showcasing best practices on asylum as well as returns, stressing that border protection has been steeped up."
However, Austria remains opposed to the accession of these two countries, citing concerns about the functionality of the Schengen system and the need for further expansion.
"However, Austria continues to oppose the accession of these two countries to the Schengen Zone over concerns that the Schengen system is not working, and thus, there is no point in further extending it." "The Ministry of the Interior of Austria said that when it comes to this issue, Vienna’s position remains unchanged."
By fLEXI tEAM