Romania and Bulgaria to join Schengen area border-free zone by air and sea

Romania and Bulgaria to join Schengen area border-free zone by air and sea

The Schengen area today includes 27 nations, allowing 400 million people to freely commute between them.

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 and have been attempting to join Schengen for over a decade.

Their full accession would leave Ireland and Cyprus as the only EU countries outside the zone.

Romania and Bulgaria to join Schengen Area

Romania and Bulgaria will enter the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone for air and sea travel in March 2024, with land border openings being examined in the ensuing year, Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu declared on Wednesday.

“We have a political agreement on this!” Ciolacu stated this on social media. “From March next year, Romanians will enjoy the benefits of the Schengen area by air and sea.”

Romania and Bulgaria to join Schengen border-free zone by air and sea

Thomas Trutschel/Photothek/Getty Image

The Deal

According to the Romanian interior ministry, the political agreement will allow Romania and Bulgaria to join the Schengen zone only via air and sea, with further agreements on land borders to follow.

Austria had been obstructing both nations’ Schengen membership due to concerns that it would result in an inflow of irregular migrants into Europe via the Turkish and Western Balkan routes.

The Schengen region currently includes 27 nations, 23 of which are European Union member states, and over 423 million residents. For more than a decade, Romania and Bulgaria had sought access.

The European Council has resolved to expand the borderless Schengen area to include Bulgaria and Romania.

Next steps

Discussions on a possible date for lifting checks on people at internal land borders will continue in 2024.

Significant financial support and Frontex assistance will continue to be offered to Bulgaria and Romania to assist them in defending the Union’s external borders. At the same time, Bulgarian and Romanian pilot initiatives at their exterior borders have proven effective.

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