Will Bulgaria enter into the Schengen Area without Romania, even though the applications of both countries have always been linked since their accession to the EU in 2007? The question has been raised following remarks made by two high-ranking officials in the European Commission.

"You are ready for Schengen", announces the popular Bulgarian daily Standart in the wake of the European Commission President’s visit to Sofia on 31 August. Speaking at a press conference, José Manuel Barroso declared that “the decision on Bulgarian entry into the Schengen Area will likely be favourable, because the country has fulfilled the accession criteria”, which most probably means that Bulgaria will shortly be included in the European border-free zone. The daily Monitor explains

The issue of Bulgarian accession to Schengen will once again be examined at a meeting of Europe’s Justice and Interior ministers in Brussels on 20 and 21 September. According to Bulgarian experts, Sofia will be given a green light in spite of the growing criticism of neighbouring Romania. A month ago, the Netherlands’ ambassador in Sofia, Karel Van Kesteren, pledged that his country would not oppose Bulgaria’s inclusion in Schengen.

The hypothesis of a different fate for Romania seems to be confirmed by a recent Le Monde interview with Viviane Reding, in which the Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Viviane Reding, argues that “the essential issue is the level of confidence in the rule of law in Romania. […] For my part, I would not be surprised if the member states decided to postpone the inclusion of Romania”. For Romanian daily România liberă, it is obvious that —

Barroso clearly alluded to a decoupling of the two states, while Viviane Reding simply made it more explicit. In the wake of the ruling centre-right coalition’s attacks on the rule of law, Romania has lost any chance of joining Schengen in the near term. What amounts to a major failure on the part of Victor Ponta’s government will mainly affect ordinary citizens and the free movement of Romanian workers”. Romania will remain in no man’s land without any prospect or agenda for a solution. It’s goodbye Schengen for Romania…