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Bulgaria, Romania Join Schengen Area, Internal Air, Sea Border Controls Lifted

Bulgaria and Romania’s joining the Schengen family is set to increase the world’s largest zone without internal border controls.

Bulgaria and Romania have officially become members of the Schengen area as of March 31, signaling the implementation of Schengen rules in both countries and the lifting of internal air and sea border controls.

The European Commission, in a statement released on its website, lauded this development, hailing it as a significant milestone following the historic Council decision of December 2023. 

The accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen family is expected to enhance the attractiveness of the common area by enlarging the world’s largest zone without internal border controls.

President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, expressed her satisfaction, stating, “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.”

In preparation for this transition, both Bulgaria and Romania have diligently undertaken all necessary measures since December to ensure the smooth implementation of Schengen rules. 

Cooperation Frameworks established earlier this March between the Commission and the two countries aim to strengthen collaboration on border and migration issues, along with addressing EU security concerns at external borders and migratory challenges.

Additionally, a regional initiative on police cooperation has been set up, involving Member States along the Western Balkan and Eastern Mediterranean routes, including Bulgaria and Romania. This initiative aims to address cross-border crime and related challenges collectively and sustainably.

Bulgaria and Romania’s steadfast commitment to safeguarding EU external borders and ensuring internal security within the Schengen area has been acknowledged. Both countries have consistently played vital roles in these efforts.

The next step involves the Council deciding on a date for lifting checks at internal land borders between Bulgaria, Romania, and other Schengen countries. The Commission pledges to offer continued support to the Presidency of the Council to facilitate a decision on land borders in 2024.

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi 

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