German chancellor shuns setting term for Romania’s Schengen accession hopes

German chancellor shuns setting term for Romania’s Schengen accession hopes

Bucharest, February 26, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Daniel Stroe

German chancellor Angela Merkel avoided issuing a time frame for Romania’s Schengen accession objective, in a joint press conference with visiting Romanian President Klaus Iohannis whose visit to Berlin is to shed light on a dragging process which is creating much frustration in Bucharest and Sofia.

A reporter asked Merkel whether a decision concerning Romania’s Schengen accession will be taken by the end of this year, as some politicians in Bucharest are hoping, given the positive evaluation the country received in the latest European Commission’s report on the progress of justice reforms.

“The latest reports have been more positive and we believe reforms will be implemented in a serious manner and we are now looking at the next steps. I cannot say anything at the moment, but I understand Romania wants an answer that shows it is moving on”, Merkel said, avoiding laying out a term.

In his turn, Iohannis said he was counting on Germany’s support in the Schengen file. “We have approached the Schengen topic. We are counting on Germany’s support to identify a solution that can allow us to achieve this objective. The CVM report (the European Commission’s report) is such an argument. A solid argument is Romania’s already proven capacity and contribution to ensuring the security of EU’s external borders. It is our duty and direct interest that these regions are part of the development of the European project”, the Romanian head of state said.

Merkel’s answer dashes hopes for an accession this year which were sprung by Klaus Iohannis, an ethnic German, being elected President of Romania. But high ranking officials in Berlin had already pointed out a Schengen accession in 2015 is out of question for Romania. Wolfgang Bosbach, chairman of the internal affairs committee of the German Parliament’s lower house, warned that Klaus Iohannis’s election as President will not “fundamentally change Romania’s internal political situation”, while saying “doubts” remain in place as to Romania’s Schengen accession.

Frustration is growing in Romania, especially since no term has been forwarded for what is now the country’s last hurdle in the greater European integration process. The discontent is even higher as the anti-corruption efforts have multiplied over the past years, one of the main conditions set by some Western chancelleries, with current and former high ranking officials being imprisoned for graft. With populism constantly growing across Europe and government tuning their agendas to counter losing votes, some say the Schengen objective may remain on paper for long from now on.