SOFIA: Residents of the sleepy town of Schengen, near Luxembourg’s border with France and Germany, would marvel at the hatred in which their hometown is held across Eastern Europe. For the freedom of movement without passport controls that the Schengen agreements brought within much of the EU was paid for at the price of ridiculously complicated procedures for entry by other Europeans.
The worst aspect of all is the so-called “Schengen black list”. Citizens from European countries outside the Schengen zone face Alice in Wonderland justice; they must prove that they are not criminals or job-poachers if they are to secure a Schengen visa. But everyone knows that it is almost impossible to disprove a negative. “Schengen” Europeans shrug nonchalantly; they seem to think that everyone beyond the Schengen zone is part of some low post-Soviet breed, always up to no good.
In recent weeks angry Bulgarians protested against the Schengen visa process. These demonstrations were more passionate even than those that took place during NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia. Most Bulgarian rage is targeted at Europe. Some of it, however, is directed against neighboring Romania because the forthcoming meeting of the EU Council of Justice & Interior to decide when and whether to lift the Schengen restrictions on both countries, is pitting Bulgaria against Romania in a classic case of divide and misrule.
Romania and Bulgaria were blacklisted at Schengen’s inception. When invited to begin negotiations to join the EU, both were told what must be done to get off the list: tighten border and custom controls, stiffen penalties against drug traffikers and illegal immigrants, and make identification papers impossible to forge.