Bulgaria & Romania Join Schengen, Remove Internal Air & Sea Border Checks

The number of Schengen Area Member States has increased to 29 after Bulgaria and Romania finally joined the border-free zone on Sunday, March 31, though only by air and sea.

Except for the land border checks which will continue to remain between both countries and the other Schengen Area states, from now on, all other rules will apply in both, including issuing Schengen visas, and passing through internal air and sea borders without going through controls, SchengenVisaInfo reports.

The achievement has been welcomed by the EU’s highest institutions and officials, calling it a great success for both countries and a historic moment for the Schengen area.

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.

European Commission

The Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, has also asserted that the enlargement of the Schengen Zone with these two countries will make it stronger.

Romania and Bulgaria’s accession makes Schengen stronger – fortifying this ‘crown jewel’ so emblematic of our European way of life, to the benefit of the internal market, our economies and European citizens everywhere.

Commission’s Vice-President Margaritis Schinas

ACI EUROPE and the European Travel Commission have also celebrated the first stage of Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen Area, calling it a momentous first step that is set to deepen their European integration.

The decision to permit Romania and Bulgaria to join the Schengen Zone, though only by air and sea, was taken last year, after Austria lifted its veto and came forward with the proposal of a gradual Schengen accession. The authorities in both countries, assisted by the other Member Countries, have taken all the needed measures to ensure a smooth application of the Schengen rules as from March 31.

New Rules That Are Set to Apply When Travelling to Bulgaria & Romania from Now On

Since Sunday, travellers to both Bulgaria and Romania will be subject to some changes. First, travellers who fly from these two countries will not have to go through border checks when travelling to another Schengen Area country.

Those wishing to visit either of them, will be able to apply for a Schengen visa at their consulates, which can then be used to visit the rest of the Schengen Zone too. Another thing that will change is that the number of days one spends in Romania or Bulgaria, will be counted towards the total number of days spent in the Schengen Zone.

Travellers holding short-stay visas issued by Cyprus, will no longer be eligible to enter either country.

Decision for Removing Internal Land Border Checks Could Be Taken Before Year’s End

Congratulating Bulgaria and Romania on this achievement, the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, has pledged to make a priority of her mandate the removal of internal land controls.

I am so proud of the work done by so many in both Romania and Bulgaria. Today internal border controls will be lifted at air borders and sea borders. Next step is lifting checks also at internal land borders. Discussion in Council will continue this year. And I promise this is the priority for the end of my mandate.

Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson

In a press release issued by the Commission on March 31, the same has pointed out that the decision for lifting checks at internal land border is now in the hands of the Council.

The Commission has noted it will continue to provide the necessary support to the Presidency of the Council so that a decision on the removal land border checks can be taken in 2024.

The Schengen Zone now consists of 29 Member States – 25 of which are EU Members, as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The only EU countries that remain out of the Schengen agreement are Cyprus and Ireland, the latter by choice.


By Shkurta Januzi

Source SchengenVisaInfo.com