The European Union should admit Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen Area or risk aiding Russia's territorial ambitions by allowing "gaps to appear in the defenses of Europe", Romanian Liberal MEP Norica Nicolai has warned.
She stressed that it was time to "show unity in the face of Russia" instead of sending a message of "an East-West divide within the European Union." The latter, she said, is a genuine risk in light of developments in Crimea and Transnistria.
"Without a unified, fully integrated Schengen Area, the fragmentation presented by holding Romania and Bulgaria at arm's length will only make it easier for gaps to appear in the defences of Europe," Ms Nicolai said.
Having met key criteria to join the Schengen area, the European Parliament approved formally the accession of Romania and Bulgaria in 2011. But both have since been vetoed by the Dutch and Finnish governments in the Council of Ministers based on judicial concerns.
Ms Nicolai said this is despite the fact both Romania and Bulgaria have been implementing best border control technologies and standards for years. On that basis, she said, they should not be held "prisoner to internal political struggles".
"I call the European leaders to stand by their words and admit Romania and Bulgaria in the Schengen area," Ms Nicolai said.
The recent events, she said, have demonstrated the true cost of thwarting the European ambitions of former Soviet States. The EU lost the window of opportunity to bring Ukraine closer during 2012 and 2013, just as it has in the past with Georgia and Turkey.
In the face of Russia reinventing its territorial and geopolitical ambitions, Ms Nicolai warned "the EU should learn a lesson."
The Schengen Area consists of 26 states, 22 of which are EU members. It was formed in 1995 and has effectively removed passport and visa requirements and common borders between member states.
Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus are all awaiting approval to become active members.