Enlargement of the Schengen Area, which Croatia and Romania are prepared to enter in 2023, is in the interest of the European Union and will help its security and protection against illegal migration, the foreign ministers of the two countries said in Bucharest on Monday.
Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic-Radman began an official visit to Romania on Monday by meeting with his Romanian counterpart Bogdan Aurescu. Later on Monday, he will participate in a meeting of the Munich leaders in Bucharest, and on Tuesday and Wednesday he is due to attend a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.
“Enlargement of the Schengen Area will help strengthen the external borders of the European Union against threats to the Union’s internal security,” Aurescu said after the meeting.
Croatia expects a positive decision on its entry into the Schengen Area, and so do Romania and Bulgaria, Grlić Radman said.
According to the recommendation of the European Commission, all three countries hope to become members of the Schengen passport-free area on 1 January 2023, although there are some reservations regarding Bulgaria and Romania, which, according to some EU members, are not doing enough to combat illegal migration.
“It is in the EU’s interest to strengthen the Schengen Area by including Croatia and Romania, which are ready to join and are part of the solution needed by the Union to manage the influx of migrants,” Aurescu said.
The two countries also hope to become members of the OECD.
“We are candidates in that process and are working together to achieve that goal,” Aurescu said.
In the year in which the two countries mark 30 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations, in a statement after the meeting Minister Grlić Radman underscored the “excellent bilateral relations, without any outstanding issues,” with an “enviable” and “excellent” degree of mutual protection of “our minorities” and an emphasis on the need to strengthen relations in the economy, tourism and trade.
He underlined that the two countries “are on the same side of history, on the right side of democracy in the fight for Ukraine’s freedom from Russian aggression.”
Therefore, it is necessary to strengthen the European presence in that part of our continent so that third, not necessarily benevolent political factors, would not increase their influence there, he said.
“This must necessarily imply the acceptance of the European foreign and security policy of the membership candidate countries,” Grlic-Radman said.
He did not explicitly mention Serbia, which is negotiating membership in the EU but has not yet imposed sanctions on Russia in line with EU policy, but only mentioned the Western Balkans.
Aurescu stressed the importance of imposing sanctions on Russia as a means of pressure to end the aggression.
Grlic-Radman also welcomed the completion of the cooperation and verification mechanism, given that Romania met all the criteria of this mechanism, he said.
At the time of the energy crisis, Croatia decided to strengthen its gas delivery capacity from the LNG terminal on Krk island to 6.1 billion cubic metres “to ensure the energy independence of its neighbors” and other countries in Europe, Grlic-Radman said.
He reiterated that Croatia can be an “energy hub in this part of Europe.”
In addition to meeting with his host, Grlic-Radman will also meet with Prime Minister Nicolae-Ionel Ciuca and the Vice-President and Acting President of the Senate of the Parliament of Romania, Alina-Stefania Gorghia.