Spanish EU Presidency: Bulgaria, Romania air and sea ports joining Schengen approved

The Council of the European Union has approved Bulgaria’s and Romania’s air and sea ports joining the Schengen zone, the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU said on X ( on December 30.

“Air and maritime internal border controls will be lifted in March 2024, while a decision on the lifting of land controls will be taken later,” the message said, noting that this was the last agreement before the end of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU on December 31.

A statement by the Council of the EU said that from March 31 2024, there will no longer be checks on persons at EU internal air and maritime borders between Bulgaria and Romania and the other countries in the Schengen area. This date corresponds with the change of the winter/summer schedule set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Council of the EU said.

As The Sofia Globe reported earlier on December 30, reports said that the signed agreement between Austria and Bulgaria and Romania on the two countries’ partial entry to the Schengen area had been sent to the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU on Friday night.

European Council President Charles Michel said on Saturday night: “Congratulations to Romania and Bulgaria on the extension of Schengen for maritime and air transport passengers.

“A long awaited step for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens to enjoy easier freedom of movement with the perspective of land transport to come,” Michel said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “Today is a day of great pride for Bulgaria and Romania.

“The decision to lift internal air and sea border checks with is a major step forward for them and for the Schengen area. Both have worked hard for it. They both deserve it. They will make Schengen even stronger,” Von der Leyen said.

Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, said: “Warm welcome to Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area to which they belong! This first but important step which enables free movement of citizens and business by air and sea breaks a 13 years deadlock.

“It is now essential to build up on this achievement and ensure that next year free movement by land is equally secured. I will continue to actively support the full accession process in 2024,” Johansson said.

A statement by the Bulgarian government on Saturday night said that in a joint tripartite declaration with Austria, the commitments of Bulgaria and Romania to strengthen the functioning of Schengen were outlined.

Separately, the European Commission (EC) with its declaration undertook to support Bulgaria and Romania in the protection of the external borders of the EU, the statement said.

Bulgaria will receive significant financial support from the European Commission, as well as operational and technical assistance from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) along the Bulgarian-Turkish and Bulgarian-Serbian borders.

Contrary to the disinformation spread in recent days, Bulgaria does not accept additional conditions related to refugees from Syria and Afghanistan, the Bulgarian government said.

Bulgaria undertakes to work together with Austria and Romania to limit secondary movements in compliance with European legislation, it said.

This includes, as before, the strict application of the Dublin Regulation and the readmission of persons registered as seeking international protection in Bulgaria and for whom Bulgaria is responsible.

This obligation under the Dublin Regulation has been directly applicable in each EU member state since 2013 and is linked to the rule on the responsibility of the country of first entry into the EU.

The commitment that is being made is for enhanced cooperation with an accelerated pace of work and without unnecessary formalities.

“Bulgaria does not and cannot accept persons for whom it is not responsible,” the statement said.

The tripartite declaration commits to discussing a date for the abolition of land border controls in 2024.

The statement said that the abolition of internal border controls for air and sea travel that will take effect in March 2024 is in respect of all the Schengen members – Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, respectively – and Romania.

(Photo: Sofia Airport)

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