Netherlands' prime minister Mark Rutte arrives at an European Union leaders summit in Brussels, March 1 2012.
Bulgaria and Romania will spend further months in the waiting room to join the European Union’s Schengen visa zone after the Netherlands continued to insist that the two countries have not made sufficient progress against organised crime and corruption.
The issue has been postponed to the September 2012 meeting of the EU’s justice and home affairs council, after discussions at a March 1 meeting of the European Council.
European Council President Herman van Rompuy said after the European Council that "we made progress" regarding the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen.
The Dutch have been the last holdout against admitting Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen, remaining adamant that though the two countries meet the technical criteria, they should be allowed in only when European Commission Co-operation and Verification Mechanism reports show that Bulgaria and Romania are up to scratch in EU justice and home affairs standards.
The Co-operation and Verification Mechanism was put in place in 2007 after Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU, to assist them in their fights against organised crime and corruption and to reform their judiciaries.
"After intensive preparatory consultations in the last weeks, we now have a roadmap," Van Rompuy said on March 1.
"We ask the justice and home affairs council to adopt in September its decision and, in the meantime, to identify and implement measures aimed at contributing to the success of the process."
Van Rompuy thanked the Romanian president, Bulgarian prime minister and
the Dutch prime minister for what Van Rompuy described as "their constructive attitude during the final negotiations this afternoon under my chairmanship".
Dutch PM Mark Rutte, speaking on March 1 after talks with European Parliament President Martin Schulz, said that Bulgaria and Romania had not achieved sufficient progress to gain the Netherlands’ support for Schengen.