Romania, Bulgaria Finally Enter Schengen Zone, but Not 100%

On March 31, controls were lifted on the movement of people in the ports and airports of the two countries, but not by land, due to Austria's negative and stubborn position

An Easter gift to residents of Bulgaria and Romania, as well as citizens of other European countries who will visit these two Balkan nations. As of Sunday, March 31, Bulgaria and Romania have entered the Schengen Area, a free movement zone that includes most countries on the Old Continent. Bulgaria and Romania have been part of the European Union since January 1, 2007 and met the technical requirements for joining the Schengen Area in 2011.

Sofia and Bucharest had to wait 13 years to be able to join, and even this period was not enough to allow the former socialist camp states to become two “full-fledged” Schengen member states.

Schengen rules will not apply to those crossing the border by land. In other words, there will no longer be passport control at the air and sea borders of the two countries, meaning ports and airports, however, it will continue to operate at land border crossings. The two countries’ entry into the Schengen Area has been blocked for years by Austria, which continues to fear an uncontrolled flow of large numbers of migrants intending to enter Europe. At the end of 2023, a “partial” agreement was reached that included accession to the Schengen Area but not the abolition of land controls.

The Schengen Area was created in 1995 by a Convention signed in a small village in Luxembourg, from which it takes its name. It is currently the world’s largest zone for free movement of people. Approximately 445 million people live in the Schengen Area, which includes 29 countries, 25 of which are members of the European Union, plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and the Principality of Liechtenstein. The two European countries that are not yet part of it are Ireland and Cyprus: the former has made a radical “political” decision not to join the convention, and the island, split in two between Greece and Turkey, does not meet the requirements to join.