Romania and Bulgaria join the Schengen Area after long resistance (but not completely)

Romania and Bulgaria join the Schengen Area after long resistance (but not completely)

First of all, what is Schengen again?

The Schengen Area is one of the most important parts of European cooperation and integration. The agreement revolves above all around the border controls that the twenty-seven member states agreed with each other in an agreement concluded in 1985 in the Schengen Area, a village in Luxembourg, on the borders with Germany and France.

In general, the 27 countries, including the Netherlands, do not implement controls on their internal borders. They also work together to control the outer borders of the entire region created in this way. This is the largest border-free inland area in the world, extending over more than 4 million square kilometers and with a population of approximately 420 million people.

What exactly is the advantage of this?

The idea is that this will boost the economy and give people the freedom to travel through Schengen quickly and without border controls. About 3.5 million people cross these internal borders daily to work, study, or visit family and friends. It shows that there are approximately 1.7 million people living in one Schengen country and working in another Preparation For the European Council.

The Schengen Area has proven fragile in recent years. Because border controls are sometimes re-imposed in the event of “specific threats”. Take, for example, the coronavirus outbreak, but also last year's influx of undocumented migrants.

Why are Romania and Bulgaria not included yet?

This is due to long-term resistance from other countries. There has been talk since 2011 about the possibility of Romania and Bulgaria joining the Schengen Area. The Netherlands strongly opposed this, as did Austria.

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Regarding Bulgaria, the Netherlands noted that the country had done very little in the fight against corruption and tackling organized crime all along. There were major concerns about inadequate external border controls and police cooperation. The Cabinet was also Concerns about corruption agents on the Bulgarian-Turkish border, where it plays a “key role” in protecting the EU’s external borders.

Just like Bulgaria, Romania also had to hit the ground running. A large group of member states felt that the level of rule of law and approach to crime was insufficient to allow them to join Schengen at all. The Netherlands remained an obstacle for the longest time, partly because it believed that the visa policy followed by Romanians was substandard, which would lead to high numbers of asylum applications.

Are all the wrinkles ironed out now?

Well not actually. Because Romania and Bulgaria are still not allowed to fully join the Schengen Area. In practical terms, this means that Romanians and Bulgarians travel by plane or boat From this Sunday Although they are allowed to travel freely, they still have to deal with passport control at land borders.

Austria remains the largest objector. That country says it is still concerned about migrants arriving in the European Union via the so-called Western Balkan route. This route was one of the most popular routes for illegal immigrants during the 2015 migrant crisis.

This route has been used frequently since 2019. 2022 in particular was a record year More than 145,000 Border crossings by people from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Turkey. Last year, 99,000 illegal immigrants took the Western Balkan route, a decrease of 31 percent. Well, some came In 2023 More migrants follow the Eastern Mediterranean route, which passes through Turkey to the European Union countries Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria.

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Do Romania and Bulgaria have a chance to fully join soon?

That doesn't seem to be the case at the moment. Partial accession for the two countries is considered a compromise, and as long as the two countries do not monitor their borders more strictly in the eyes of other countries, there will be no full accession.

Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner said: “Schengen must become better, not bigger.” in December. “I don't see a lot of progress here yet, so I can't imagine any change at this point.” According to Austria, the Schengen area can only function properly if all countries invest more money in stricter controls at external borders.

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