Bulgaria holds out hope of entering visa-free Schengen zone
(SOFIA) - President Rosen Plevneliev said Friday that Bulgaria would continue to seek entry into the visa-free Schengen zone, after the decision was postponed until September.
"Bulgaria will demonstrate patience and responsibility regarding Schengen," Plevneliev was quoted as saying by the news agency Focus.
"Pressure and opposition by one country against another ... are not appropriate given the situation Europe is in," he said in reference to The Netherlands, which has repeatedly blocked Bulgaria as well as neighbouring Romania from acceding to the 25-nation Schengen zone.
"Europe needs solidarity and unity in this grave crisis which threatens important European priorities," he said.
"For this reason, Bulgaria will be a quiet, sympathetic and patient member that will nevertheless defend its interests till the end," the president added.
Plevneliev however distanced himself from Romania, which wielded its veto in Brussels earlier this week to block a decision to make Serbia a candidate for European Union membership.
Several diplomats described the move as a tit-for-tat response after The Netherlands opposed its entry into the Schengen area.
Bucharest however struck an ageement with Belgrade over minority rights, and Serbia achieved EU candidate status on Thursday.
"We cannot stop Serbia," Plevneliev said. "It is of strategic importance for us that Serbia gain this (EU candidate) status and that it begin the process of integration," Plevneliev said.
"It is unacceptable to set conditions" for entering Schengen, he said. Gaining EU candidacy status is a "very distinct" matter, he added.
Any move to expand the Schengen area, home to 400 million Europeans who can cross borders without a passport, needs a unanimous vote but The Netherlands has staunchly opposed including Romania and Bulgaria.
A European Commission report last month urged both to take more action against corruption and organised crime.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Thursday: "We believe that Bulgaria and Romania have not done enough."
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