European Commission on Bulgaria, Romania joining air and sea Schengen

On March 31, Bulgaria and Romania become Schengen members: the Schengen rules will apply in both EU member states including on issuing Schengen visas and controls at the internal air and sea borders will be lifted, the European Commission (EC) said.

“The Commission strongly welcomes this achievement, which follows the historic Council [of the EU] decision of December 2023,” the EC said.

“The Schengen accession of these two member states will make the common area more attractive by significantly expanding the world’s largest common area without internal border controls,” it said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “Tomorrow marks an important day: Bulgaria and Romania join the Schengen family.

“I welcome the lifting of internal air and sea border checks. 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,” Von der Leyen said.

The EC said that since last December, Bulgaria and Romania had taken all necessary measures to ensure a smooth application of the Schengen rules as from March 31 2024.

The Cooperation Frameworks launched earlier this March by the Commission together with Bulgaria and Romania build on the successful implementation of the pilot projects for fast asylum and return procedures, the EC said.

“With these Cooperation Frameworks, Romania and Bulgaria will further contribute to strengthening the cooperation on border and migration, as well as to the joint European efforts to address EU security at external borders and migratory challenges,” the statement said.

Furthermore, a regional initiative on police cooperation was established between member states along the Western Balkan and Eastern Mediterranean routes, including Bulgaria, Romania, Austria, Greece, Hungary and Slovakia.

“This will allow to address related challenges jointly and in a sustainable manner, including as regards cross-border crime,” the EC said.

“Bulgaria and Romania have continuously demonstrated a high level of commitment in ensuring an adequate protection of the EU external borders and have constantly acted as key contributors to the internal security of the Schengen area.”

The Council of the EC will need to take a decision to establish a date for the lifting of checks at internal land borders between Bulgaria, Romania and the other Schengen countries.

“The Commission will continue to provide all necessary support to the Presidency of the Council to ensure that a decision on land borders can be taken in 2024,” the EC said.

For more information, please visit the European Parliament’s web page on Schengen.

For information on the rights of foreigners who have residence permits issued by Bulgaria to travel within Schengen, please click here.

(Archive photo: VOA)

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