"I expect that Croatia that by the end of next year, meets all the criteria for accessing Schengen. The Council should then recognize everything that has been done. Such treatment will also show the credibility of the European Union", said MEP Tonino Picula, in the debate on strengthening and expanding Schengen to Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania at the plenary session in Strasbourg.
Picula, who was named shadow rapporteur on the two opinions of the Foreign Affairs Committee for Schengen on behalf of S&D, pointed out that Croatia never had such straong political support of the European Parliament to join Schengen as it has today!
Gianni Pittella, president of S&D, said that "the EU cannot be a second-rate country and that it is not fair to exclude Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania from the Schengen area! Croatian citizens deserve the fulfillment of the promise that they have the right to access Schengen when they meet the conditions!"
The Council has stated that the process of Croatia's evaluation is still ongoing and that certain shortcomings are addressed, but that there are very few issues for which the European Commission's proposal is expected in the near future.
Dimitris Avramopoulos on behalf of the Commission was also encouraging. He thanked Pittella and S&D for the initiative to talk about Schengen's enlargement to Croatia and said that, together with Bulgaria and Romania, it will play an important role in protecting the EU's borders.
Today's debate strengthened the position of Croatia that should have the technical readiness in 2018, so that the Council by early 2019, and certainly before the end of the mandate of the current European Commission in May 2019, could make a political decision on Croatia's accession to the Schengen area.