Romania and Bulgaria join the Schengen area

Bulgaria and Romania officially join the Schengen zone on March 31, although we are not yet talking about full membership.

Border controls on entry and exit from these countries to other Schengen countries by air or water transport will be abolished. At land borders with other EU countries, controls will remain in place for some time; a decision on its abolition will have to be made by the EU Council. According to the European Commission, the Council of the EU decides within a reasonable time frame, in Sofia and Bucharest they expect this to happen before the end of the year. Austria, however, currently opposes the removal of controls. Negotiations are ongoing.

The decision to join the two countries to the Schengen zone – with the mentioned restrictions – was made by the European Union at the end of last year. From March 31, Bulgaria and Romania will be able to issue Schengen visas under the same rules as other EU countries.

The head of the European Commission called March 31 “a historic moment for the Schengen area – the largest free movement zone in the world.”

With the accession of Romania and Bulgaria, the Schengen zone, which generally lacks border controls at internal borders, includes 29 countries – all EU states except Cyprus, as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

  • In 2007, Bulgaria and Romania became members of the European Union.
  • The European Commission announced its readiness to integrate states into the Schengen zone back in 2011, but some EU countries blocked this decision for 12 years, pointing to problems with corruption and the inability of Bulgaria and Romania to provide border security. Austria and the Netherlands, in particular, feared an increase in the flow of illegal migrants.
  • Hungary opposed Bulgaria’s entry into the Schengen zone. Budapest withdrew its objections in December. Before this, Sofia, under pressure from the Hungarian authorities, canceled fees for the transit of Russian gas.
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