While France and Germany want to push back the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area, in which there are no checks at internal frontiers, to the summer of 2011, the Hungarian Presidency intends the accession to take place during its term at the helm in the first half of 2011. Bucharest and Sofia are hoping to join the club in March.
The enlargement of the Schengen area to two Eastern European countries will in fact be one of the most complex issues that Budapest will have to deal with during its Presidency. It will be all the more complex given that the country wants to launch a European strategy in favour of Roma, at the heart of a dispute between France and the European Commission a few months ago.
"The Schengen area without checks at internal borders is one of the most tangible achievements of the EU for its citizens. The Hungarian Presidency supports the accession of Romania and Bulgaria, provided that they fulfill the necessary conditions."
Paris thinks that the two countries are not ready. According to France's European Affairs Minister Laurent Wauquiez, "we need to be sure of our borders," highlighting that Romania does not recognise borders with Moldova across which people flow. However, the EU does recognise "a border with Moldova: so it's a problem that is for the moment an obstacle to Romania and Bulgaria being able to join the Schengen area". More generally, Wauquiez is critical of a lack of checks at the borders of these two countries, citing problems of corruption.
Budapest will also come back to the implementation of the five-year Stockholm Programme on judicial and home affairs cooperation with the aim of "bringing the Europe of citizens closer". "Tangible results need to be achieved in the area of freedom, security and justice, which impact on the daily life of citizens," says the future Presidency. One goal in particular is to make progress on plans to compensate victims of crime at the EU level, to increase the effectiveness...