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The Schengen Evaluation Working Group (SCH-EVAL) on 3 May expressed a positive opinion on the last of the reports concerning Bulgaria's fulfilment of the criteria necessary to enter the Schengen Area. Thus Bulgaria has gained the same status as Romania, which already in January this year was given confirmation that it had met the technical membership criteria by SCH-EVAL. However, the end of the process of preparation for accession coincides with a debate on the EU's migration policy and an opposition to plans for the enlargement of the Schengen Area among some of its member states. The still high levels of corruption and crime in Bulgaria and Romania, and the debate on the modification of Schengen Area's acquis will probably be used as arguments for temporarily stalling the enlargement of the Schengen Area. Bulgaria and Romania are intensifying their efforts to build a coalition of countries supporting the enlargement, since membership of the Schengen Area is a priority issue in foreign policy and an essential element of internal debate in these two countries. However, the chances of the political resistance within the EU being overcome are low, as is the likelihood of the Schengen Area being enlarged in 2011.
The final stage of technical preparations for accession in Bulgaria and Romania
SCH-EVAL's approval of the reports for Bulgaria and Romania marks an end of the nearly decade-long period of preparation for accession. The key phase of implementing the Schengen Area's acquis took place over the past two years. Given this perspective, the approval of the reports means a success for both countries, as it confirms the proper implementation of the standards pertaining to the impermeability of their borders, personal data protection, proper police co-operation with the other EU member states and visa policy. However, the last of the reports on Bulgaria was approved only following a delay of several months due to flaws revealed in the policing of the land border with Turkey. This provided formal grounds for the withholding of the decision to enlarge the Schengen Area in March 2011 as had been planned (Sofia and Bucharest are jointly applying for membership). However, some EU member states do not believe that the meeting of the technical requirements is a sufficient argument for fulfilling the promise of accepting these countries in the Schengen Area.
Source : bne
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