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Bulgaria and Romania to join Schengen Zone in March 2024

Bulgaria and Romania to join Schengen Zone in March 2024 President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen (photo: Getty Images)

Members of the European Union have approved the phased integration of Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen Zone. EU countries will lift border controls on the maritime and air borders of the two countries starting from March 2024. Controls will still be maintained on land borders, according to the press service of the European Commission.

"Today marks a historic moment for Bulgaria and Romania. And a day of great pride for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens. As of March, they will be able to freely cross internal sea and air borders, without border controls. This is a major step forward for both countries and for the Schengen area as a whole," said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.

Discussions on the possible date for lifting person checks at land borders will continue in 2024, and it is expected that the EU's decision on this matter will be made within reasonable terms.

Bulgaria and Romania have been working since 2007 to become part of the Schengen Zone. The European Commission declared the readiness of the two countries for this step back in 2011, but the process was hindered by various EU countries. In December 2022, the Council of the European Union approved the decision, but Austria blocked it in December 2022 due to weak efforts to combat illegal migration. In 2023, Hungary blocked accession to Schengen, criticizing Bulgaria for introducing a transit tax on Russian gas.

The Schengen Zone

The Schengen Zone is a group of European countries that have agreed to eliminate border controls among themselves. This allows people to travel freely within the Schengen Zone without any delays. Currently, the Schengen Zone includes 27 countries.

The Schengen Community was established in 1985 by France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

It was previously reported that the Netherlands gave the green light for Bulgaria to join the Schengen Zone.