Tuesday

19th Oct 2021

Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, 'join Schengen' call by EU Parliament

  • The final decision on Schengen-zone accession is more of a political one and must be taken unanimously by all members of the European Council (Photo: Frontex)

Romania and Bulgaria should receive full membership of the passport-free Schengen zone, according to the European Parliament.

The request was included in the European Parliament's annual report on the functioning of the Schengen area.

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That report, which received overwhelming support from MEPs (505 votes for, 134 against, and 54 abstentions), also stated that Croatia meets all technical requirements to be part of the controls-free travel area.

"Further to its numerous requests for the full application of the provisions of the Schengen acquis in Bulgaria and Romania, urges the Council to honour its commitment and take an immediate decision on the abolition of checks at internal land, sea and air borders and thus allow those member states to rightfully join the area of free movement without internal border controls; is prepared, when consulted by the council in accordance with Article 4 of the Act of Accession, to express its opinion on the full application of the provisions of the Schengen acquis in Croatia", according to the full text of the relevant part of the report.

Earlier this month, the EU Commission also made a similar request, when proposing a strategy towards a stronger and more resilient Schengen zone.

The commission called on the European Council to decide for the abolition of controls for Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and their integration into the Schengen area.

The final decision on Schengen-zone accession is more of a political one and must be taken unanimously by all members of the European Council, the EU body made up of the heads of state or government of all EU member countries.

This usually comes after the commission vets certain technical criteria and the parliament greenlights the procedure.

Bulgaria and Romania's bid to join the control-free travel area, however, has been a bumpy ride.

After it was approved by the European parliament in June 2011, the Council of Ministers rejected it in September that year - with the French, Dutch, and Finnish governments citing concerns on shortcomings in anti-corruption measures and in the fight against organised crime.

While France switched to backing Romania's bid, opposition continued from Germany, Finland and the Netherlands.

In 2018 the European parliament voted for a resolution in favour of accepting both countries, requesting that the council "act swiftly" on the matter.

Similar to Bulgaria and Romania, Croatia is also legally-bound to join the Schengen area - but with no clear deadline in sight.

Six years after joining the EU, Croatia received commission backing to join Schengen, with the European parliament confirming this month that the country met all requirements.

In Romania, officials say the country has been ready for years to join Schengen. Prime minister Florin Cîtu said Romania has been ready to enter Schengen since 2011, but that he hopes that in 2021 this will actually happen.

Croatia's prime minister Andrej Plenković, on the other hand, mentioned the second half of 2024 as a reasonable date for its country to join the Schengen zone.

Technically, the Schengen zone is the area now comprising 26 European countries - mostly EU, but also four non-EU member states - that have officially abolished all passport and other types of border-control at their mutual borders.

The European parliament report also referenced internal border controls set up both in response to the Covid-19 pandemic but also other hurdles reintroduced since 2015, urging that the Schengen zone quickly restore full free-movement.

Author bio

Cristian Gherasim is a freelance journalist contributing to EUobserver, Euronews, EU Reporter, Katoikos, Von Mises Institute, and bne IntelliNews, with a particular focus on European and regional affairs.

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