Romania And Bulgaria Partially Join Schengen Travel Zone 

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Hunyad ( Corvin ) Castle in Hunedoara, Romania

Romania and Bulgaria partially joined Europe’s ID-check-free travel zone on Sunday, marking a new step in the two countries’ integration into the European Union.

After years of discussions to join the Schengen Area, passengers traveling by air or sea from either country can now enter freely. However, land border checks will stay in place because of opposition, particularly from Austria, which has long resisted their proposal due to illegal migration concerns.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the transition as a “huge success for both countries” and a “historic moment” for the world’s largest free travel zone.

The Schengen Area was created in 1985. Prior to Bulgaria and Romania’s admittance, it included 23 of the 27 EU member countries, as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. Every day, around 3.5 million people cross internal borders.

Austria vetoed Romania and Bulgaria’s entrance to the Schengen zone at the end of 2022, but allowed Croatia full membership. Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007, and Croatia in 2013.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive department, has stated for more than a decade that Romania and Bulgaria both meet the technical conditions for full accession, which requires unanimous agreement from their partners. Both countries have agreed to conduct random security screenings at airports and marine crossings in order to combat illicit migration and cross-border crime.

The removal of border controls is projected to make operations at Bulgaria’s four international airports more efficient, with roughly 11 million passengers expected in 2023, according to official statistics.

Sofia’s airport is the largest hub for Schengen flights, which account for 70% of all flights, according to airport representatives.

While the relaxed laws are likely to benefit the tourism industry, members of the European Parliament have expressed worries about long waits at the EU’s land borders and the impact this may have on trade in the bloc’s single market, as well as driver safety.

Truck drivers are routinely stuck in kilometers-long lines at Romanian and Bulgarian borders. The Union of International Carriers in Bulgaria believes that delays cost the sector tens of millions of euros each year.

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