A border policewoman checks documents at Romania's eastern border with Moldova.
As European Union justice and home affairs ministers met on December 13 2011, the Netherlands restated its opposition to Bulgaria and Romania joining the EU’s Schengen visa zone.
Ahead of the meeting, some hopes in Sofia and Bucharest had been raised by a draft item for the ministers’ meeting proposing a compromise that would see the two countries’ sea and air borders included in Schengen in March 2012, and its land borders at the end of July.
Schengen's enlargement requires unanimous consent from all member states.
Currently, the Netherlands is the only EU country to block the expansion of the Schengen area. In November, Finland partly lifted its opposition, saying it was willing to allow the states to enter Schengen in two stages.
Speaking to journalists outside the meeting, Dutch immigration minister Gerd Leers said that his country wanted to see Bulgaria and Romania making sustainable progress against organised crime and corruption that could be demonstrated in the next report, due to be issued in March 2012, under the European Commission’s Co-operation and Verification Mechanism with Bulgaria and Romania.
He said that his country wanted to make sure that, as a consequence of the Schengen admission of the two countries, "no criminals and corruption" would reach the EU’s internal markets.
"I am not an enemy of Bulgaria and Romania. I’m a friend of Europe," he said.
Asked whether his country’s stance as the sole opponent of Schengen admission for the two countries meant that the others in the bloc did not hold the same views about crime, corruption and protecting Europe, Leers said that the other countries had had reservations, which was why Bulgaria and Romania’s accession had been delayed.
He confirmed again that if the EU Presidency forced the question to a vote, the Netherlands would use its veto.
Media reports said that the ministers had agreed to admit Lichtenstein to Schengen, as of December 19.