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Romania turmoil triggers cancellation of EU talks

(BRUSSELS) - Concern over Romania's political turmoil helped trigger the cancellation of EU talks this week aimed at assessing the country's bid to join the Schengen visa-free area, EU diplomats said Tuesday.

European Union officials and diplomats said there was very little on the agenda to justify the expense of bringing 27 justice and home affairs ministers to Brussels this week for the talks.

"The only issue that could have justified the trip was Schengen", said an EU diplomat on condition of anonymity, referring to Bulgaria and Romania's bid to join the 26-nation travel-free area.

"But given the events in Romania this summer that issue was far from ripe," the diplomat added.

Another diplomatic source said Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands said they would oppose any proposal to bring Romania into Schengen for now, so the issue had been pushed back to a new meeting of the ministers late October.

"We had political developments in Romania that made it impossible" to put the issue on the table, the source said on condition of anonymity. "If we feel we can't get a decision in October we will examine the issue again."

Romania has been in turmoil since the centre-left government coalition led by Prime Minister Victor Ponta tried to remove the country's President Traian Basescu, a centre-right politician, in July.

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.

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