Schengen, between triumphalism and realism. What is essential

Schengen, between triumphalism and realism. What is essential

The moment of Romania’s partial entry, with its air and maritime borders, into the Schengen Area is neither a matter of ridicule nor one of triumphalism. Unfortunately, these two aspects dominate the public space.

Of course, Romanians, whether we are talking about simple tourists, the diaspora, or carriers, were primarily hoping for the elimination of controls at the land borders.

Imagine being able to travel from Bucharest to Thessaloniki or Budapest and only stopping at gas stations? What a relief it would be for the millions of Romanians working in the EU to be freed from the torment of hours lost at the border, both upon arrival and departure, every time they come to the country.


But the most important benefit would be economic, namely the disappearance of the huge lines of trucks at the borders with Hungary and Bulgaria, which result in much higher costs than those of Schengen countries. Annual losses are estimated at 10 billion euros.

Transfer of trust

The fact that these changes are not happening does not mean that this partial access is unimportant. On the contrary! As of March 31st, Romania is legally part of the Schengen Area.

And the best proof is that as of that moment, Romania's consultates issue valid Schengen visas, like any such visa, for the entire Area of free movement, including entry at land borders.


I dare say that this is actually the essential political decision which, once taken and put into practice, means that the entry into the Schengen Area is fulfilled. The transfer of trust is accomplished and irreversible.

There have been other countries that entered Schengen in two stages, Austria being one of them. However, it is also true that none, apart from Romania and Bulgaria, needed two distinct decisions in the JHA Council for each stage.

This distinct status was only caused by the electoral interests of the Austrian chancellor at the end. Until then, however, years of rejection and delay were caused by the inefficiency, corruption, and lack of seriousness of Romanian politicians.


Terrestrial access, when

How long will it take until we also enter Schengen with the land borders largely depends on two aspects.

On the one hand, it depends on how the political situation in Austria will evolve. I hear the phrase: let's finally get rid of Nehammer! Fine, let's get rid of him, but who will we replace him with? Let's not forget that pressure, including on the issue of illegal immigration, on the current government comes from the Austrian far right, leading in the polls ahead of this year's elections in Austria.

From a pragmatic point of view, I don't know if Nehammer is, in absolute terms, the worst option. And I don't know if this delay might not be a reasonable price to avoid Austria being dominated by the far right.

On the other hand, it depends on how Romanian institutions will manage this partial entry into the Schengen Area in the coming months.

How things will unfold at airports, how visas will be granted. If the typical Romanian state's indolence, incompetence, and corruption cause significant failures, we will lose the arguments for full accession.

Credit to the Silent One

The leaders in Bucharest did not miss the opportunity to make triumphant statements, heralding the final victory as if they had any role in it or any merit for this moment.

At the airport in Timișoara, Mr. Ciolacu, Mr. Ciucă, and Mr. Grindeanu were shining like light bulbs and spouting words.

The only one I haven't heard is the one who deserves the most credit for this achievement, even if it's partial. Interior Minister Predoiu took over a negotiation blocked by the incompetence and strident provincialism of his predecessor Bode, and by the nationalistic hysterics in Bucharest, caused by those who completely unjustifiably raised expectations in December 2022, knowing that the chances were minimal.

He managed to unblock it not only thanks to immense experience in European relations but also because he is an expert in delicate negotiations, as his main profession. This is yet another proof that you cannot achieve excellence in high-level management except with those who have achieved excellence in their professions before becoming dignitaries.

Probably Mr. Predoiu will also succeed in obtaining the final step, if the process is not destroyed by the lamentable state of state institutions and/or by Romanian politicians who rarely resist the temptation of fiery, populist, and nationalistic statements during the electoral campaign.

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