The countries of the European Union (EU) unanimously agreed this Saturday on the gradual entry of Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen free movement area after Austria, the last country of the Twenty-seven that opposed the measure, lifted his veto.
The decision implies that, starting in March, controls at the internal air and sea borders with those two countries, which joined the EU in 2007, will be eliminated, with the commitment of Austria, Bulgaria and Romania to later agree on the date. of the end of ground controls, as reported by the current Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU.
“Congratulations to the citizens of Romania and Bulgaria for the extension of Schengen for sea and air transport passengers,” declared the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, through his profile on X.
Michel pointed out that this is “a long-awaited step for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens to enjoy easier freedom of movement, with the prospect of land transport to come.”
Sources from the Spanish Ministry of the Interior have described the agreement – which culminates twelve years of negotiations – as “historic” and have assured that it was one of the priorities of the Spanish presidency of the EU Council that concludes tomorrow.
Furthermore, they have stated that the progressive lifting of controls at the internal borders of Bulgaria and Romania will “strengthen and expand” the European free movement area and facilitate the movement of millions of people, with “a very positive social and economic impact throughout the region”.
Austria confirmed today the withdrawal of its veto to the agreement, which was already announced on Wednesday by Romania and, on Thursday, by Bulgaria.
The Romanian Prime Minister, Marcel Ciolacu, had assured on Wednesday that the pact would also include maritime travel, which would benefit the port of Constanta on the Black Sea, and was confident that full accession would be negotiated in 2024.
Although the European Commission and European Parliament have been ensuring for years that Bulgaria and Romania, members of the EU since 2007, are prepared to enter Schengen, Austria had until now blocked their entry.
The Schengen Treaty establishes the lifting of border controls between its Member States, which currently cover 4.3 million square kilometers and 423 million citizens of 27 European countries (23 EU members and 4 non-EU members).