The recent terrorist attacks on the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo and the hostage taking in the Jewish supermarket just outside of Paris have caused a major disturbance in European Union’s security policies. AEGEE-Europe acknowledges the grave and deep impact of these events, but would like to express its concern with recent developments around the heightened security threat and the stricter regulation of the Schengen Area. According to Romanian MEP Traian Ungureanu, Romania’s and Bulgaria’s chances to join the Schengen zone have diminished sharply now that Germany and France have become more cautious . Some Schengen countries fear that accession of Bulgaria and Romania would ease the transition of Islamic extremists into Europe via Turkey and successively Bulgaria.
AEGEE-Europe considers this a thought that connects two developments with each other which are not related at all. Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 and have been meeting the technical requirements of joining the Schengen area for years, which was confirmed by the European Parliament already in June 2011. At the same time, since the rise of the Islamic State in parts of Iraq and Syria, the countries have done their duty as European Union border countries, taking care of refugees as well as investigating them.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said “police have arrested and sent back to Turkey more than 3,000 immigrants. (…) There have been more than 12,000 asylum-seekers since the start of 2014. Some 5,500 asylum requests have been granted for humanitarian reasons”.
Refusing the Schengen accession of the eastern Balkan member states on grounds of security threats goes against the solidarity and humanitarian principles which have always been a cornerstone of the success of the European Union. Not only would such a measure be unfair to Romania and Bulgaria who have made distinguishable successes in their justice and home affairs policies, but also to asylum seekers fleeing from the crisis situation. Not granting Schengen rights to Romania and Bulgaria on these grounds misses the point of better security measurements, as protecting the security of European citizens should focus on establishing adequate gate-keeper procedures for the border countries, not on excluding EU citizens from the passport-free area.
AEGEE-Europe believes in democratic values and a borderless Europe; a Europe in which it would be unfair to undo the good work of Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen area. Therefore we hope that these threats will not become a reality and fair democracy in Europe can be preserved.
Written by Matthijs Overhaal (Policy assistant of AEGEE-Europe) and Paul Smits (President of AEGEE-Europe)