Dutch govt drops objection to Bulgaria joining Schengen

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Bulgaria has met the conditions to join Europe’s passport-free Schengen area by strengthening its borders and efforts to combat illegal migration, the Netherlands said Friday, as Sofia took one step closer to joining.

The Dutch government has “come to the conclusion that Bulgaria meets the conditions set for Schengen accession and can therefore agree to a decision leading to Bulgaria’s full application to Schengen”, Dutch deputy justice minister Eric van der Burg said.

The Schengen area comprises 23 of the 27 EU member countries plus associated neighbours Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Both the Netherlands and Austria have so far thwarted Sofia’s bid to enter the free-to-travel zone over worries that the influx of asylum-seekers could grow if the Schengen zone was expanded.

But a recent follow-up mission led by the European Commission to Bulgaria found that there were no shortcomings, including in its border controls, Van der Burg said.

The country “continued to correctly apply the Schengen acquis”, he said in a letter to parliament.

“The government welcomes the results of the fact-finding missions and agrees with the conclusions drawn up by the experts from the member states and the Commission,” Van der Burg said.

“It shows that Bulgaria has continued to invest in the correct application of the entire Schengen agreement in recent years,” he said.

He added however that Bulgaria had to “continue to work on strengthening its borders.”

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