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Bulgaria and Romania move a step closer to Schengen area

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Bulgaria and Romania have moved a step closer to having their border checks with the borderless Schengen area lifted. An EU Council decision that both comply with data security requirements for joining the "Schengen Information System" border control database was approved by the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee on Thursday.

The Parliament is consulted on both countries' accession to the Schengen Information System (SIS), the sophisticated database used by border control agents to exchange information in the fight against crime and illegal immigration.

A report by Carlos Coelho (EPP, PT) approving the Council decision, which is the first step towards lifting the border checks, was approved in committee with 36 votes in favour, 1 against and 3 abstentions.

An evaluation working group had verified that Bulgaria's and Romania's branches of the SIS system (which are not yet connected to the central database), ensure satisfactory levels of data protection and came to a positive overall conclusion, thus opening the way for further tests. These tests are to begin before the end of the year, says the Council Decision approved by the committee.

The report will be debated next Tuesday, and put to a plenary vote on Wednesday, in Strasbourg.

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