Mini-Schengen for Bulgaria and Romania. Is it possible to abolish border controls between the two countries?

Press Hub examines press publications on the idea of a Bulgarian-Romanian mini-Schengen, also referring to the “Bridge of Friendship”

PressHub (Romania), 25 december 2022

PressHub examines press publications on the idea of a Bulgarian-Romanian mini-Schengen, also referring to the “Bridge of Friendship”

Following the rejection of Bulgaria and Romania’s accession to the Schengen area on 8 December 2022 due to opposition from Austria and the Netherlands, road carriers from both countries have called for the creation of a so-called “mini-Schengen”. This means abolishing border controls between Bulgaria and Romania.

Following the decision of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, the National Union of Road Hauliers in Romania (UNTRR) said that road transport, which is the largest exporter of services in Romania, is the most affected economic sector.

“Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union together and have always united to enter the Schengen area together, and it is necessary to continue joint efforts for their accession to the Schengen area. In this spirit of solidarity, the Union of Road Hauliers in Romania calls on the Romanian government, together with the Bulgarian government, to urgently and pragmatically address the issue of simplification to the point of abolishing border controls between the two countries,” the organisation said in a press release.

Bulgarian hauliers have called for the same: the abolition of border controls between Bulgaria and Romania

“If Bulgaria and Romania cannot be in the Schengen area, the governments of the two countries should abolish border controls,” the Chamber of Road Transport Operators in Bulgaria said in a statement quoted by Agerpres.

The organisation says it supports the view of the National Union of Road Hauliers of Romania (UNTRR) that with the accession of the two countries to the Schengen area blocked, the governments of the two countries should work together to abolish border controls between them.

“In both countries, the transport sector is important for their economies. The transport industry in Bulgaria and Romania has suffered significantly from the protectionist measures introduced by the EU in the name of the Mobility I package. The aim is clear – to reduce the competitiveness not only of the hauliers in both countries, but also of their economies as a whole,” said the CABA announcement.

According to Bulgarian road hauliers, the non-admission to the Schengen area is “a blow to business, to all those who travel and to heavy goods vehicle drivers who are forced to wait for hours and days at the border”.

“A ‘mini-Schengen’ between Romania and Bulgaria will show that the area is not, in fact, marginal.

PRESShub’s partner in Bulgaria, The Bridge of Friendship, has explored the idea of a so-called “mini Schengen”, i.e. the abolition of border controls between Romania and Bulgaria – a decision that could be taken by the governments in Bucharest and Sofia.

“The idea would be of great benefit to carriers, to the traffic of travellers between the two countries, for example Romanian tourists spending their summer holidays in Greece, etc. I think that this initiative should be seriously considered, because it will indeed bring benefits. It should be presented in some way as being directly linked to the efforts of both countries to integrate into Schengen and at the same time it should be sold as a step towards joining Schengen, showing how much solidarity there is between the two countries and that it is possible to remove the rather rigid and thick border separating the two countries,” said Sergiu Miscoiu, professor of political science at the European Studies Centre of Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca.

Sergiu Miscoiu believes that a “mini-Schengen” between Romania and Bulgaria would mean a rapprochement towards the European spirit.

“Since marginal spaces never unite, they are in conflict and marginal because they depend on central spaces. This mini Schengen between Romania and Bulgaria will show that this area is not marginal. It is a zone that can be operationally integrated internally, and this means that all the mechanisms are in place to integrate this zone into the larger Schengen area,” the political scientist says.

Losses of €200 per truck, per border crossing

The executive director of the Bulgarian Chamber of Road Hauliers, Dimitar Dimitrov, is of a similar opinion, as he says that due to the controls between the two countries, the daily loss for a haulier who keeps his truck and driver at the border is at least €200.

“For years we have been demanding that the traffic on the Bulgarian-Romanian border be eased, and the measures are not only related to the entry into Schengen. The creation of a mini-Schengen is only part of the measures, which are of a different nature. At present, an extremely large number of checks are concentrated at these border crossings. The vast majority of these checks are completely unnecessary,” Dimitrov said in a dialogue with the Bridge of Friendship.

The director of the Chamber of Road Transport Operators in Bulgaria believes that the rejection of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area is a real mockery.

“They basically said: ‘For us you are nobody, whether you are eligible or not’, ‘We will take anybody and anytime’.”

A proposal also from a Romanian MEP

National Liberal Party MEP Marian Jean Marinescu said he would propose the creation of a free movement zone between Romania and Bulgaria.

“Yesterday, during the debate, I had another proposal. I asked Commissioner Ilva Johansson what she thought about a small Schengen – a free movement zone, between Calafat-Vidin or Giurgiu-Ruse. That is why Romania and Bulgaria should abolish their border. I think that would be a much bigger slap, but a nice one.

Abolish borders – we have secure external borders anyway, why keep trucks on the border between the two countries,” Marian Jean Marinescu told G4Media.

Asked whether the European authorities should be involved in such a decision, or whether it could be taken at local level, MEP Marian Jean Marinescu replied. That is why I have a written question to the committee on this very issue – for someone to say that this is not allowed or that it is a problem. I think it is a matter for the two countries to decide, and that would be a different answer from their (Austria’s) actions. Their actions are of very low quality. So this kind of thing is unthinkable and we are responding with something of high quality. We are creating a free movement area and that is all, and of course we continue to insist on joining Schengen.”

For more opinions on the “mini Schengen” read the article “Ion Lixandru on the Bridge of Friendship”: Separation from Bulgaria is NOT a good idea because we have a lot of work to do together.

This article was published on 25 December 2022 in PressHub and is republished as part of the media cooperation, which Cross-border Talks and The Bridge of Friendship have with PressHub.

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