Bulgaria, Romania to join Schengen area by air and sea

Bulgaria, Romania to join Schengen area by air and sea

Bulgaria, Romania to join Schengen area by air and sea

The European Council agreed on Saturday that Romania and Bulgaria will be partially incorporated into the Schengen region of free travel in March 2024.

Romania and Bulgaria, both EU members since 2007, were rejected from the wide Schengen zone, which allows more than 400 million people to travel freely without internal border restrictions, by the end of 2022.

Their applications were first rejected by Austria, which had claimed for years that it was forced to house a disproportionate number of unauthorised immigrants due to inadequately secured external Schengen borders.

According to a statement issued by the European Council on Saturday, the 27 EU member states unanimously decided to abolish controls at the two nations’ air and maritime borders as of March 31.

Discussions over opening the land borders will continue next year.

The European Commission welcomed the two countries’ partial Schengen inclusion, which comes after 12 years of negotiations.

“An enlarged Schengen area will make the EU stronger as a Union, internally and on the global stage,” it said in a statement.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called it a “historic moment”.

“Today is a day of great pride for Bulgaria and Romania,” she said in a post on social media. “They both deserve it. They will make Schengen even stronger.”

The Schengen area was created in 1985 and includes 23 of the 27 EU member states, as well as their associated neighbours Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.