Home Brussels Bulgaria, Romania get official green light for partial entry into Schengen area

Bulgaria, Romania get official green light for partial entry into Schengen area

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EU member countries reached agreement Saturday on removing air and maritime internal border controls with Bulgaria and Romania, but the two countries’ full entry into the bloc’s passport-free Schengen zone remains subject to further discussions.

Controls at sea and air borders with Romania and Bulgaria will be lifted as of March 31, the Council of the EU, which represents EU countries, said in a statement on Saturday. “A further decision should be taken by the Council to establish a date for the lifting of checks at internal land borders,” according to the statement.

The European Commission said talks on removing controls at land borders will continue in 2024. “A decision by the Council on this matter is expected to be taken within a reasonable time frame,” the EU executive said in a statement.

Romania and Bulgaria, both EU members since 2007, were passed over for entry into Schengen when Croatia was admitted on January 1, 2023. The Schengen area, which comprises 27 countries, grants free movement to more than 400 million EU citizens.

Austria had opposed the inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria in the Schengen zone due to concerns over illegal immigration. But in mid-December, Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner announced a softening of Vienna’s stance, offering passport-free travel by plane from those countries in exchange for tighter border security measures.

Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu last week announced a “political agreement” on Schengen entry.

The Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU hammered out the final agreement late on Saturday, just before the government in Madrid passes the baton to Belgium.

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