The European Union has admitted two new countries to the Schengen area

The EU Council has decided to admit Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area. The procedure will begin with the abolition of air and sea border controls from March 2024.

The European Commission said in a statement that the decision to admit Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area “will contribute to the development of trade and tourism, as well as to the further strengthening of the internal market.” According to Brussels, the expanded zone will strengthen the Union, both internally and internationally.

– This is a historic moment for Bulgaria and Romania. It is also a day of great pride for the citizens of Romania and Bulgaria. From March they will be able to freely cross internal sea and air borders without border controls. This is a big step forward for both countries and for the entire Schengen area, stressed Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.

The road from Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area

The Commission confirmed for the first time in 2011 the willingness of Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen area without internal border controls. “Since then, Bulgaria and Romania have demonstrated that they meet the conditions for joining the Schengen area,” the statement said.

This was confirmed during three missions to the external borders of Bulgaria and Romania in 2022 and 2023. In March this year. The EC also launched pilot projects with both countries to improve the management of their external borders, strengthen cooperation with neighboring countries and ensure fast asylum procedures.

Who didn’t want an extension?

Brussels advised Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen area in 2022, but Austria and the Netherlands were against this. There were fears, especially in Austria, of an increase in the influx of illegal migrants. The Netherlands, in turn, argued that Bulgaria has “unresolved rule of law problems.”

Hungary also opposed Bulgaria’s entry into the Schengen area, but withdrew its objections in December after the government in Sofia, under pressure from Budapest, abolished the transit fee for Russian gas.

Area in the EU without border controls

The Schengen area includes 27 countries and covers more than 4 million km2 with a population of almost 420 million people. Together with Romania and Bulgaria, the Schengen area will expand to 4.5 million km2 and have a population of 450 million.

As highlighted in the EC’s announcement, this is the ninth expansion of the Schengen area, which “confirms and strengthens the mutual trust and unity between Member States on which Schengen is based and will help implement this important project.”

Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union in 2007.

Source: Do Rzeczy