Europe

Germany mulls Schengen veto on Bulgaria and Romania

Bulgarian policeman checking lorry on border, file pic Image copyright AFP
Image caption There are concerns in the EU about people-trafficking via Bulgaria and Romania

Germany says it will not allow Bulgaria or Romania to join the EU's passport-free Schengen zone if the issue is put to a vote in the EU on Thursday.

"If Romania and Bulgaria insist on a vote, the attempt will fail because of a German veto," German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said.

Both countries must take further steps to prevent migrants abusing the system, he told Germany's Spiegel news website.

The two countries have sought Schengen entry since joining the EU in 2007.

Most EU countries, and some others including Switzerland and Norway, are in the Schengen zone, where border controls for those countries' citizens are minimal or non-existent.

The UK and Republic of Ireland opted to stay out. In the UK, the governing Conservative Party is considering ways to limit immigration from Bulgaria and Romania when EU labour market restrictions are removed for the two countries next year.

Schengen will be discussed by EU home affairs and justice ministers on Thursday.

In a BBC interview in Berlin, Mr Friedrich said "the right of free movement gives all people in Europe the opportunity to come to another country for work, for education, but it's not allowed to come only to Germany or Great Britain to get social security". The minister is in the conservative Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), allied to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"That's the reason why we want to send people back, and this is what we have to regulate in our European law... There is no problem when people are coming to Germany for work, that's what we want in Europe, but we don't want people coming only to have social security," he told the BBC's Stephen Evans.

The Netherlands has previously voted to delay the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen, arguing that both countries need to step up measures against corruption and organised crime.

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