Bulgaria and Romania joined the Schengen area

On 31 March, Bulgaria and Romania became Schengen members: the Schengen rules will apply in both Member States including on issuing Schengen visas and controls at the internal air and sea borders will be lifted.

The European Commission strongly welcomes this achievement, which follows the historic Council decision of December 2023. The Schengen accession of these two Member States will make the common area more attractive by significantly expanding the world's largest common area without internal border controls.

Since last December, both Member States have taken all necessary measures to ensure a smooth application of the Schengen rules as from 31 March 2024. The Cooperation Frameworks launched earlier this March by the Commission together with Bulgaria and Romania build on the successful implementation of the pilot projects for fast asylum and return procedures. With these Cooperation Frameworks, Romania and Bulgaria will further contribute to strengthening the cooperation on border and migration, as well as to the joint European efforts to address EU security at external borders and migratory challenges.

Furthermore, a regional initiative on police cooperation was established between Member States along the Western Balkan and Eastern Mediterranean routes, including Bulgaria, Romania, Austria, Greece, Hungary and Slovakia. This will allow to address related challenges jointly and in a sustainable manner, including as regards cross-border crime.

Bulgaria and Romania have continuously demonstrated a high level of commitment in ensuring an adequate protection of the EU external borders and have constantly acted as key contributors to the internal security of the Schengen area.

The Council will need to take a decision to establish a date for the lifting of checks at internal land borders between Bulgaria, Romania and the other Schengen countries. The Commission will continue to provide all necessary support to the Presidency of the Council to ensure that a decision on land borders can be taken in 2024.

Already in 2011, the Commission confirmed in the Schengen Evaluation reports that Bulgaria and Romania have met all requirements to be fully part of the Schengen area. The Commission has actively supported this process.

The Schengen area without control at its internal borders is one of EU citizens' most cherished achievements. What started as an intergovernmental project between five Member States in 1985 – Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Netherlands – has gradually expanded to become what is today the largest area of free movement in the world. Besides facilitating free movement of people without internal border controls, Schengen significantly benefits Europe's economy. (source: europa.eu/photo: freepik.com)

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Editorial

Editorial
George Kazoleas, Lawyer

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