Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia Set for Full Participation as Schengen Area Members
The European Union Justice and Home Affairs Council, under the steer of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU, will vote on 8 December on the full participation of Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia in the Schengen area without internal border controls.
The European Commission has called upon the Council to take the necessary decisions without any further delay to allow Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia to fully participate in the Schengen area.
A communication issued by the Commission said that for years, these three Member States have significantly contributed to the well-functioning of the Schengen area, including during the time of the pandemic and more recently when faced with the unprecedented consequences of the war in Ukraine.
While the three countries are already bound in part by the Schengen rules, the internal border controls with these Member States have not been lifted and therefore they do not enjoy the full benefits that come with being part of the Schengen area without internal border controls.
According to the Commission, an enlarged Schengen area without internal border controls will make Europe safer, through reinforced protection of common external borders and effective police cooperation.
All three member states have now completed the Schengen evaluation process, Bulgaria and Romania in 2011, and Croatia between 2016 and 2020.
The Schengen area is the largest free-travel area in the world, with currently 22 EU countries participating (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia), as well as four associated non-EU countries (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein). Ireland maintains an opt-out on the abolition of internal border controls.
Countries wishing to join the Schengen area must undergo a series of Schengen evaluations to confirm whether they fulfil the conditions necessary for the application of the Schengen rules. Once the Schengen Evaluation missions confirm the readiness of the Member State to join the area without internal border controls, a unanimous approval from all other Member States applying the Schengen acquis in full is required. The European Parliament must also give its consent.
On 10 November 2022, the European Parliament gave a positive opinion on the draft Council Decision on the full application of the Schengen acquis in Croatia. On 18 October 2022, the European Parliament adopted a resolution inviting the Council to allow Romania and Bulgaria to join the Schengen area.