By Pat Harrington – Members of the European Parliament will today debate the extension of Europe's borderless Schengen zone to Bulgaria and Romania.
The MEPs will vote on Wednesday.
Concerns over security and illegal migration have been raised.
After visa rules were waved for Serbia and Macedonia in December 2009, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands faced an influx of migrants – mainly Roma and Albanian minorities – claiming political asylum.
The Civil Liberties Committee of Justice and Home Affairs in the European Parliament said in May that Bulgaria and Romania have met the criteria requirements and so should be accepted into the Schengen area.
The Bulgarian-Turkish-Greek border area is a big worry due to the prospect of illegal immigration.
France, Germany and the Netherlands have previously expressed concern at Schengen entry for Bulgaria and Romania. Their governments have demanded that the Balkan states' accession to the border-free zone be made conditional on their post-EU accession monitoring, the so-called Cooperation and Verification Mechanism reports issued each July by the European Commission on problem areas such as organized crime and judicial reform which are technically unrelated to the Schengen criteria. In March the expected entry of Bulgaria and Romania into Schengen was delayed.
Under current EU rules, the key condition for joining the Schengen area is the ability to ensure the security of the EU's external borders (control of land, sea and air borders, issuing visas, police co-operation, readiness to connect to and use the Schengen Information System and data protection). The Council of Ministers will decide, after consulting the European Parliament, whether to abolish checks at internal borders with those Member States.
Nick Griffin commented: "I have raised concerns about the current operation of Schengen.
“There are no border controls within a territory possessing 42,673 km of sea coasts and 7,721 km of land borders, covering 25 countries and 400 million citizens.
“Schengen is as strong as the weakest link in that system. If one country does not control an external border, the whole zone is affected. We have seen the pressures caused by events in North Africa and resulting illegal immigration. Adding Bulgaria and Romania will increase the pressures on the Schengen system.
"Whilst Britain is not part of Schengen, any expansion will inevitably increase attempts at illegal immigration into our country as, once in Schengen, people can move towards our borders. Allowing Bulgaria and Romania to join Schengen will be bad for Britain."