Bulgaria and Romania Partially Join Schengen Area After 13 Years

Following a 13-year wait, Bulgaria and Romania are set to partially join Europe’s expansive Schengen area of free movement on Sunday. This move will facilitate travel by air and sea without the need for border checks.

However, despite this progress, land border controls will continue due to Austria’s resistance to granting full membership to Bulgaria and Romania in the Schengen zone. Austria’s concerns revolve around the potential influx of asylum seekers from these eastern European countries.

Despite this partial membership, the elimination of controls at air and sea borders holds substantial symbolic importance.

Foreign policy analyst Stefan Popescu has described Bulgaria and Romania’s admission to the Schengen area as an “important milestone,” signifying a “question of dignity, of belonging to the European Union.”

“Any Romanian who had to walk down a lane separate from other European citizens felt being treated differently,” he told AFP.

Following Bulgaria and Romania’s inclusion, the Schengen zone will expand to 29 members, encompassing 25 of the 27 European Union member states, along with Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

The Romanian government has announced that Schengen rules will be implemented at four seaports and 17 airports. Among these, Otopeni Airport near the capital Bucharest stands out as the largest hub for Schengen flights.

The government stated that more personnel, ranging from border police to immigration officers, will be deployed at airports to aid travelers and identify any attempts of illegal departure from Romania.

Random checks will also be conducted to uncover individuals with forged documents and address human trafficking, particularly involving minors. Bulgaria and Romania aim to achieve full integration into the Schengen area by the year’s end.

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