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Veto from giants to Romania and Bulgaria joining EU passport

Romania and Bulgaria have reacted angrily to moves by the French and Germans to try to block them from joining the Schengen zone, the Europe’s borderless travel zone.

France is against the move because of fears of an influx of Romanian families. In July president Nicolas Sarkozy ordered the expulsion of thousands of illegal Roma from Romania and Bulgaria who had set up illegal camps that were the source of organised crime including trafficking, prostitution, child beggars and delinquency.

There is also concern that ease of travel would result in gangs of organised criminals from Romania and Bulgaria moving into Western Europe.

The two eastern European states want to enter the passport free Schengen zone in March, which would allow the free movement of their citizens between 25 European Union countries. Britain and Ireland are not in the Schengen zone and have separate entry requirements.

France and Germany though have urged the European Commission to postpone their inclusion indefinitely because of concerns about their failure to tackle corruption and organised crime since joining the EU three years ago.

Romania and Bulgaria have faced repeated criticism from the EC for their failure to deal with the problems. This has raised concerns about their ability to curb trafficking in people and drugs from Eastern Europe to the west if they were allowed to join the Schengen zone.

French interior minister Brice Hortefeux and her German counterpart Thomas de Maiziere said in a letter to the EC; ‘In our opinion it is still premature to envisage the entry into the Schengen zone in March 2011’.

They urged the EU to postpone any discussion of Schengen entry for the two countries until they strengthen the ability of the judiciary and public administration to combat abuses.

‘Deficiencies … would have serious consequences for the internal security of the European Union and each member state,’ the ministers wrote. Some have suggested more strict conditions.

Romanian president Traian Basescu though has criticised them. ‘We will not accept discrimination from anyone, not even from the EU’s most powerful states. We must have the same conditions all the other states had that are also specified in the accession treaty. Introducing new conditions is against European law and it creates an unacceptable precedent.’

Bulgarian interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told reporters that the letter did not change Sofia’s plans to push ahead with technical preparations for joining the Schengen zone.

It is estimates that tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have entered Western Europe since the zone was extended in December 2007 to include Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta.

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