Romania and Bulgaria Set to Join Schengen Area

In March, Romania and Bulgaria anticipate their inclusion in the Schengen area, following significant negotiations with Austria. The Romanian government shared this optimistic update, indicating the imminent resolution of longstanding opposition from Vienna.

Austria had long been against this expansion, citing concerns over border security and migration. However, recent discussions hinted at a possible shift in their stance, proposing a phased approach that begins with the inclusion of airports from both countries. This breakthrough agreement, finalized just before Christmas, addresses pivotal criteria related to border security and migration, as confirmed by the Romanian interior ministry.

Although Romania and Bulgaria met the Schengen entry prerequisites by 2010 after joining the EU in 2007, their path to joining the border-free zone faced delays. There were apprehensions about corruption and doubts in Austria regarding their ability to manage migrant crossings.

Expressing relief, Romanian Premier Marcel Ciolacu celebrated this development on social media, heralding the benefits for Romanians starting March in terms of air and sea travel within the Schengen area. He also expressed confidence in closing negotiations for land border access by 2024.

While the Bulgarian government hasn’t responded to requests for comment, Austria’s interior ministry confirmed ongoing negotiations primarily regarding airports and outlined specific conditions, including stringent border protection measures and a willingness to accommodate migrants, especially from conflict zones like Syria and Afghanistan.

This breakthrough isn’t without its geopolitical implications. The inclusion of seaports, particularly Romania’s Black Sea port of Constanta, could potentially aid neighboring Ukraine by offering an alternative export route amid the ongoing tensions with Russia.

The upcoming discussions among EU member states, essential for the agreement’s finalization, are expected to continue, further shaping the prospects for Romania and Bulgaria’s Schengen accession. This impending entry into the Schengen area not only signifies a milestone for the two countries but also holds significance in the broader context of European cooperation and integration

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