Romania and Bulgaria in the Schengen zone, first act

Romania and Bulgaria in the Schengen zone, first act

Since Easter, Bulgaria and Romania have become part of the vast European Schengen free movement area. An entry only half done for now: border controls in fact disappear for travel by air or sea, but not for those by land. The wait for the two Eastern European countries lasted 13 years and has not yet completely ended due to Austria’s persistent veto on border crossings by road or rail, for obvious reasons of risks of illegal immigration.

“This is a great success for both countries and a historic moment for the Schengen area, the largest free movement area in the world,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement on Saturday. “Together, we are building a stronger and more united Europe for all our citizens.”-

With Bulgaria and Romania, the Schengen zone now includes 29 members: 25 of the 27 European Union member states (Ireland and Cyprus are outside), plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Sofia, passengers arriving from Berlin receive the EU flag (reuters)

The Romanian government explained that Schengen rules will apply to four seaports and 17 airports, with Otopeni Airport, near the capital Bucharest, serving as the main hub for Schengen flights. More staff, including border police and immigration officials, will be deployed at airports to “support passengers and identify those who want to take advantage of this to leave Romania illegally”, the government added. Random checks will also be carried out to catch people with false documents and to combat human trafficking.

Bulgaria and Romania hope to fully integrate into Schengen by the end of the year, while Austria has so far only caved in on air and sea routes. Croatia, which joined the EU after Romania and Bulgaria, preceded them in becoming the 27th Schengen member in January 2023. Created in 1985, the Schengen area allows more than 400 million people to travel freely without internal border controls.

If many celebrate, the same does not happen for truck drivers. And for those who want to undertake trans-Balkan itineraries – I know, go to Turkey with your own car. Particularly for hauliers, the border between Romania and Hungary and that between Romania and Bulgaria are euphemistically speaking stressful and uneconomical; 8-16 hours of waiting on average for the first one, about double for the second one.

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