Wednesday, 24 June 2009

EU Migration Much Easier For Bulgarians With The Schengen Agreement

I remember queuing outside the Bulgarian Embassy for hours in freezing temperatures in London to get my visa. It is a procedure that is complicated, time consuming, expensive. Today this is at an end as all EU citizens should have the freedom to move about in other EU countries, but this is not the case here. Bulgaria and a few other EU members are dragging their feet with the transition of easy migration and stull have the 'old school' habits in place at border crossing. Bulgaria doesn’t seem to have changed anything in terms of 'stiff officialdom' and 'job's worth' staff that interigate when crossing EU borders. I've seen it here.

EU Migration Much Easier For Bulgarians With The Schengen Agreement
Waiting in long lines in front of an embassy in the freezing winter cold -- or in the scorching summer heat -- is a distant memory for Bulgarians. The Balkan country was placed on the so-called Schengen White List in 2001, allowing its citizens to travel visa-free to neighbouring Greece as well as 14 other western European countries.

Currently, Bulgarians only need a valid ID or passport to leave the country. Immigration officers cannot ask citizens to produce travel tickets, employment certificates, bank statements, proof of accommodation or other such documents.

Bulgaria's EU accession brought the country a step closer to the Schengen area, a group of countries whose external borders are carefully guarded, while the internal borders between the participating countries have been fully abolished.

All of the nations in the group have fully implemented the Schengen acquis -- the rules and provisions of the 1985 Schengen Agreement and the 1990 Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement -- which was integrated into the EU framework by the 1999 Amsterdam Treaty.

Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania have not fully met the entry criteria.

Evaluations carried out, mainly by the European Commission (EC), must show that Bulgaria has met the entry conditions if the country wants to become a full Schengen member by March 2011.

In order to jump that hurdle, Bulgaria must set up common rules on external border controls at land, sea and air, as well as enhance police and judicial co-operation with the other member states. Another prerequisite is that the country must show that it is applying personal data protection and establish the Schengen Information System, a joint database established by member states.

Bulgaria also must introduce biometric passports. After several attempts to procure a company to produce the passports, the process stalled again in April.

Since joining the EU two years ago, Bulgaria has only used 1.4% of approximately 161m euros of EU assistance earmarked for the necessary preparations, the Sofia-based daily Dnevnik reported last February.

The Dnevnik article also quoted Jonathan Faull, head of the EC's Directorate General for Justice, Freedom and Security, as saying that there are numerous gaps in Bulgaria's preparations and that several challenges still need to be addressed.

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