Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen Area

. Julia Tirazona | Published on 06 Feb 2024

Bulgaria and Romania to join Schengen Area img

Effective as from March 31st, 2024, Bulgaria and Romania will partially join the European Schengen Area. 

The process of joining will start with lifting controls at sea and air borders between Bulgaria, Romania and other Schengen countries. As per the statement issued by the European Commission, discussions on lifting controls at land boarders will continue in 2024 and a decision on this matter is expected to be taken within a reasonable time frame. Until then, border checks will still apply for land-based travel between the Schengen Area and Bulgaria or Romania. 

Whilst welcoming this decision, President Ursula Von der Leyen said that this is a historic moment for both countries, as since March onwards citizens will be able to freely cross air and sea borders without any border controls. Both countries had been striving to reach this agreement since 2011 when they started fulfilling the conditions for becoming members of the Schengen Area. This was further reconfirmed by several fact-finding missions at the external borders of Romania and Bulgaria. 

This inclusion of these two countries will promote cultural exchange and economic growth, facilitate tourism, trade and travel, as travelers will no longer be subject to border control inspections. 

From a legal standpoint, the accession process entails enhancement of security cooperation through the sharing of law enforcement information and intelligence, and enhancement of border security by implementing robust visa policies and strengthening judicial cooperation. Bulgaria and Romania would need to align their legal systems with EU directives to facilitate cooperation and to ensure uniformity in handling migration and asylum matters. Both countries will have access to the Schengen Information System (SIS) which is a crucial tool against terrorism, illegal immigration and cross-border crime. To assist Bulgaria to fully join the area, substantial support by the Commission and Frontex will continue being provided. 

The Schengen Area

The Schengen Agreement, established in 1985, abolished internal borders among its member states, enabling the free movement of people, services and capital. Currently the Schengen Area offers unrestricted travel within a territory of 27 countries and includes a population of over 420 million citizens, making it the world’s largest common area without internal border controls.

Bulgaria and Romania’s accession to the Schengen Area in 2024 represents a significant step forward in European integration process. 

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