Romania, Bulgaria join Schengen Zone, but only by air & sea

Seek full membership of Schengen Zone by year end
2024-04-01
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/ Paris
Romania, Bulgaria join Schengen Zone, but only by air & sea
Romania, Bulgaria join Schengen Zone, but only by air & sea

The Schengen area is comprised of the 25 other EU member states along with non-EU states

The Schengen Zone in Europe welcomed two more members, at least partially, as Central European countries Romania and Bulgaria joined the zone on Sunday, but only for passage by air and sea. Both the countries are pushing for full membership before the end of the current year.
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In a move that could propel international tourist arrivals to both the countries, Romania and Bulgaria have become the latest members of the Schengen Zone, a grouping now of 29 countries, that allows visa-free movement of people and goods across internal borders.

The Schengen area is comprised of the 25 other EU member states along with non-EU states Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Catalin Predoiu

Catalin Predoiu

The two latest members, however, so far have been granted only partial Schengen Zone membership, applicable only to passengers transiting through air or sea. However, surface transport, mainly road and some rail, constitutes a bulk of travellers within Europe and hence both are pushing for a full membership at the earliest, to allow people coming by any mode of transport a border-free and visa-free access across the entire Schengen Zone.

The surface transport aspect of their membership was blocked due to a veto by Austria, which fears that land routes would enable non-EU migrants to more easily enter other EU states.

Romania has said that it will carry out random checks to guard against false travel documents and and to combat human trafficking. ‘‘Our efforts to also join Schengen with land borders is continuing on multiple diplomatic channels,’’ says Romanian Interior Minister Catalin Predoiu.

The European Commission is due to deliberate on the issue of full-membership of both the countries in a few months. Nonetheless, it has welcomed the addition to the Schengen Zone membership.

‘‘This is a great success for both countries and a historic moment for the Schengen area, the largest area of free movement in the world. Together, we are building a stronger, more united Europe for all our citizens,’’ says Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.

Olivier Jankovec

Olivier Jankovec

Meanwhile, Airports Council International (Europe) and the European Travel Commission have welcomed the induction of the two countries into the Schengen Zone.

“Schengen is part of the fundamental fabric of European air travel, allowing a smoother passenger experience and more efficient operations with faster connecting times and streamlined checks. Facilitating travel for EU citizens in Romania and Bulgaria is an important step forward for Europe. It is about further strengthening integration and driving equality through the fundamental right to free movement. This development will have positive economic and social repercussions for local communities and the wider economy,” says Olivier Jankovec, Director General, ACI Europe.

Eduardo Santander

Eduardo Santander

“Welcoming Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen Zone by air and sea is key in facilitating seamless travel for locals and tourists alike. This offers a stellar opportunity to develop tourism in these two lesser-known destinations, which will benefit local communities and businesses as well as the wider European tourism ecosystem. We hope that this marks the beginning of a swift journey towards full accession, and that land borders will be lifted soon,” says Eduardo Santander, Executive Director, ETC.

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