Dutch PM says no to Romania's Schengen accession
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and Prime Minister Viorica Dancila pleaded for the accession of Romania to Schengen in their separated meetings with Rutte, but the latter showed his disagreement.
"I underlined Romania's support for the more efficient management of the Union's external borders. In this context, I reiterated Romania's desire to join the Schengen area as soon as possible," Iohannis told a joint press conference after meeting with Rutte.
Dancila said at another press conference with Rutte that "Given that Romania meets the technical criteria regarding the accession to the Schengen area, which was confirmed by the European Commission, I asked the Dutch prime minister to support Romania.
"I strongly believe that Romania deserves to be in the Schengen area and that we do not have to link the issue of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism to the Schengen criteria," she said.
Rutte offered a seemingly ambiguous response at the Presidential Palace, saying "I fully understand Romania's desire to join the Schengen area... we will see what the next steps will be, after the assessment to be made by The European Commission."
The Dutch prime minister was more straightforward when he spoke at the press conference with his Romanian counterpart.
"We do not agree on all points, such as Schengen, but it is true that we agree on many other issues," Rutte said, referring to the European project and bilateral relations.
The Netherlands is one of the countries that have opposed most the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area over the years.
Schengen accession has been a long process for Romania and Bulgaria, whose entry into the border-free area has been constantly delayed since 2011, despite Bucharest and Sofia authorities' claims that they had done all the needed preparations.
Currently, citizens of the two countries are allowed visa-free entry into the Schengen zone and there are eased accesses to Romania and Bulgaria for Schengen visa holders, but the two European Union member countries are not full members of the Schengen system.
The Schengen zone, which currently embraces 26 European countries, acknowledges the abolishment of their internal borders with other member nations and outside, for the free and unrestricted movement of people, goods, services and capital. ■