By Krassen Nikolov
The Netherlands continues to block Bulgaria’s Schengen accession because of the corruption and of another problem highlighted this time – human trafficking. On Wednesday (5 June), Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok, who is on an official visit to Bulgaria, made it plain that “there is still room for improvement when it comes to corruption and human trafficking”.
Blok said he was impressed by Bulgaria’s progress when it comes to border security. But he added that Bulgaria needs a system for controlling human trafficking.
The European Commission officially supports Bulgaria to become a member of the Schengen area. According to the Commission Bulgaria has met the technical criteria for membership and EU countries should not block Sofia. The Netherlands however remains the hardest opponent of Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen Agreement. A little over a year ago, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was on a visit to Sofia during the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU and poured cold water over the hopes of his Bulgarian colleague Boyko Borissov of Schengen accession.
This time was not different. Borissov’s government expected a breakthrough for Schengen membership, but that did not happen.
“We have heard your desire to join Schengen, but I hope you understand that the people of the Netherlands know about the large number of migrants who arrive in our country, we have to make sure the border control is uncompromising before we allow Bulgaria to Schengen,” Stef Blok said.
According to information obtained by this website, the Netherlands has taken very seriously the scandals about the bribery scheme for the acquisition of Bulgarian passports and uses this as an argument against Bulgaria’s Schengen accessions. The former chairman of the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, Petar Haralampiev, is still in the arrest, charged for this case.
“There is always room for improvement, but we not only guard the EU’s external border well but also investigate human trafficking. Just this year there have been 100 investigations into human trafficking. I hope the Netherlands will soon make a decision in favor of Bulgaria“, said Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva.
Blok showed that he was not impressed by the Bulgarian statements and the pictures shown on how the border is guarded.
“I was shown numerous pictures of border guards, but there is another issue – how you handle corruption and what is the approach to human trafficking. And I think further progress is needed there”, Blok said. The Netherlands is the largest foreign investor in Bulgaria and it is aware of Sofia’s its problems in the fight against corruption.
Meanwhile the European Commission published its annual recommendations for improving the economies of the member states. In the report on Bulgaria, the Commission has hardened its tone on corruption and money laundering in Bulgaria and reminds that if no action is taken there is a risk of renegotiating EU funding.
“The risk of corruption needs to be better addressed, as it is a predicate offence to money laundering. The Bulgarian authorities will need to show concrete results and build a track record evidenced by final decisions in high level corruption cases. The use of financial investigation and financial profiling is limited”, the report states.