Bulgaria and Romania: Joining the Schengen Area

Bulgaria and Romania Joining the Schengen Area
  • 4 minutes
  • Jan 18, 2024

In a monumental decision by the European Council, Bulgaria and Romania are set to become the newest members of the Schengen Area by March 31, 2024. This expansion marks the ninth enlargement of the Schengen Area, showcasing the adaptability and unity of the world’s largest border-free zone. The inclusion of these two countries not only highlights their commitment to European standards but also strengthens the internal market of the European Union. With controls at air and sea borders to be lifted from April 2024, this development will facilitate smoother travel, trade, and tourism.

The Evolution of the Schengen Area

The Schengen Area originated as an agreement in 1985 between France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Since then, it has grown to encompass 27 countries and 4 million square kilometers, allowing nearly 420 million people to traverse it visa-free. The addition of Bulgaria and Romania will further solidify the significance of the Schengen Area within the EU’s legal framework. With a combined area of 4.5 million square kilometers and a population of 450 million, the Schengen Area continues to foster greater cohesion and connectivity across European borders.

Assessments and Commitment

The inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania in the Schengen Area is not a hasty decision. Various assessments have taken place since 2011 to evaluate the readiness of these countries. Recent fact-finding missions in 2022 and 2023 have substantiated their commitment to aligning themselves with European standards. Pilot projects aimed at bolstering external border management and cooperation have also been conducted alongside these assessments.

A Historic Moment

In a press release issued by the European Commission, President Ursula von der Leyen hailed the inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania as a historic moment. This decision underscores the efforts of both nations to meet the necessary criteria for joining the Schengen Area. Discussions about lifting controls at land borders are expected to continue throughout 2024. Financial and Frontex assistance will continue to support Bulgaria and Romania in protecting the Union’s external borders. The successful pilot projects conducted ahead of this decision will transition into more structured arrangements to ensure their enduring utility for border management.

Benefits for Business, Tourism, and Cultural Exchange

The inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania in the Schengen Area will have far-reaching benefits. Armand Arton, President and CEO of Arton Capital, expressed his excitement about the transformative power of this development. He shared his personal experience of the arduous visa application process in the past and highlighted how the inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania will make border crossings easier for permanent residents and citizens. This change will foster greater business opportunities, vibrant tourism, and dynamic cultural exchange within the Schengen Area.

Maintaining Security and Cooperation

As the Schengen Area expands, security remains a top priority. Bulgaria and Romania will receive continued financial and Frontex assistance to protect the Union’s external borders. The successful pilot projects conducted prior to their inclusion will serve as a foundation for more structured arrangements. These measures aim to ensure the enduring effectiveness of border management and cooperation.

The Schengen Area’s Continued Growth

The inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania is part of the Schengen Area’s ongoing expansion. Croatia joined just last year, further strengthening the cohesion and connectivity across European borders. The evaluation process for Cyprus is currently underway, indicating the Schengen Area’s commitment to growing and adapting to new member states.

The inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania in the Schengen Area marks an important milestone for global citizenship and European unity. This expansion will facilitate smoother travel, trade, and tourism while strengthening the internal market of the European Union. Bulgaria and Romania have demonstrated their commitment to aligning with European standards, and their inclusion highlights the adaptability and willingness of the Schengen Area to embrace new member states. As the Schengen Area continues to expand, it fosters greater cohesion, security, and cooperation across European borders.

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