Bulgaria and Romania Inch Closer to Full Schengen Membership Amid Border Challenges

Bulgaria and Romania Inch Closer to Full Schengen Membership Amid Border Challenges

The European Parliament’s Petitions Committee is gearing up to vote on a resolution supporting the full acceptance of Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen Area.

This move comes as concerns mount over long lines of heavy goods vehicles at the borders of the European Union (EU).

These long lines have raised issues regarding drivers’ health and safety, traffic jams, and the smooth functioning of the single market.

Pushing for swift action on Bulgaria and Romania’s Schengen accession

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have highlighted how truck traffic jams have detrimental effects on the drivers’ health, the safety of roads, and the environment. This is because the congestions cause air, water, and noise pollution.

They emphasize that the EU needs to urgently address the long waiting times for trucks at internal borders. This is especially important at crossings between countries between Schengen and non-Schengen member states.

The resolution they have put forward calls on the Council to quickly decide on granting full Schengen membership to Romania and Bulgaria by mid-2024.

Belgium leading charge for Bulgaria and Romania’s integration

The Belgian Presidency of the EU is leading the way in making sure Bulgaria and Romania become full members of the Schengen Area.

A resolution up for voting in the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions stresses the need to quickly tackle border problems between the two countries and the wider Schengen Zone.

The resolution suggests that keeping checks at internal borders not only goes against the principles of the Common Market but also puts the financial interests of all member states at risk.

Irregular migration concerns unlikely to hinder

Concerns over irregular migration have caused Bulgaria and Romania to wait 11 years before they can join the Schengen Zone.

However, the European Commission and Romania’s Foreign Affairs have confirmed that these concerns are unlikely to stop Bulgaria and Romania from joining the Schengen Zone through their land borders.

Both countries have stepped up their efforts to effectively manage the migration situation. Romania deported 1,222 individuals and Bulgaria caught 1,729 irregular migrants at the border with Turkey in 2023.

Remaining outside Schengen results in financial losses

Businesses in Bulgaria have lost around €1 billion because of delays at land borders, and Romania's road freight industry has taken a hit of about €2.41 billion.

According to Gunther Fehlinger, an economist and politician from Austria, it is crucial that Bulgaria and Romania become fully part of the Schengen Zone for land borders by May 1st, 2024.

He stressed that new conditions for accession are unacceptable and must be rejected.

Full implementation of Schengen regulations from March 31st

The European Commission has previously announced that starting March 31st, Bulgaria and Romania will fully adopt all the rules outlined in the Schengen Agreement.

This includes the provisions of the Visa Code and the 90/180-day rule, which must be applied directly to both countries since the Schengen rules apply in full.

Smooth travels ahead for Bulgaria and Romania’s visitors

Bulgaria and Romania’s potential entry into the Schengen Area will bring positive changes for travelers.

Short-term visitors will enjoy the convenience of seamless border crossings without the need for passport checks.

However, those planning to stay longer than 90 days within a 180-day period will still need to apply for the appropriate visas.

It is crucial to understand that starting in mid-2025, the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) will become mandatory for travelers who don’t need a visa to enter the Schengen Area, which includes countries like Bulgaria and Romania.

Adapting to immigration policies

As Bulgaria and Romania move closer to full Schengen membership, their immigration policies will need to align with the Schengen Area’s regulations.

This includes the implementation of the ETIAS, which will help screen visa-exempt travelers before they enter the Schengen Area.

The two countries will also need to adapt their long-term immigration policies to ensure compliance with EU standards while still attracting valuable talent, such as investors, digital nomads, and students.

By seamlessly integrating into the Schengen Area, Bulgaria and Romania will demonstrate their dedication to EU principles and their ability to manage their borders efficiently.

A new era of border cooperation and mobility awaits

As Bulgaria and Romania move closer to becoming full members of the Schengen Area, the European Parliament and the Belgian Presidency of the EU are taking the lead in solving border issues and helping these countries smoothly join the Schengen Area.

By March 31st, all Schengen regulations should be fully in place, and there is a chance that Bulgaria and Romania could join the land borders by mid-2024.

This means they are getting ready to work more closely with other EU countries on borders and travel.