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European countries on the way to expanding EU and Schengen region

The EU ministers of the interior will make decisions next week about the admission of two or three new EU member states, and about the expansion of the Schengen area. Earlier, France and the Netherlands, among others, opposed the expansion of the EU.

Those two countries believed that the current Union should first reorganize and modernize itself before admitting newcomers. It is unclear whether the Russian war against Ukraine has changed the way people think about this. 

The European Parliament believes that not only Moldova and Ukraine should become candidate members, but also Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Europoliticians do think that the admission criteria should be changed: negotiations must be completed within six years, and interim criminal sanctions must also be possible.

The MPs see the enlargement policy as the strongest geopolitical asset of the EU, especially given the growing threat from Russia. Countries wishing to join can already align their foreign and security policies with those of the EU. Some do too.

However, MEPs are critical of Serbia, which is not participating in the EU sanctions against Russia. According to MEP Tineke Strik (GroenLinks), the Russian aggression has 'rightly' led to a greater desire for EU expansion. 

The Netherlands remains against Bulgaria's accession to the free travel area within Europe, the Schengen area. However, Romania and Croatia are ready to be admitted. According to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Bulgaria does not yet meet the conditions for allowing Bulgarians to travel through the EU countries without passport checks. 

Rutte called the decision to admit Romania now "a big step", after the Netherlands had blocked their admission to the Schengen arrangement for years. The European Commission and the European Parliament believe that all three EU countries have adhered to the agreements made in the past.

On December 8, the issue will be discussed at the meeting of the EU ministers of justice and home affairs. Unanimity is required for votes on both the admission of new Schengen countries and the expansion of the EU.

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