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Two EU countries to join Schengen zone tomorrow

Two EU countries to join Schengen zone tomorrow Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission (photo: Getty Images)

Tomorrow, March 31, two more countries of the European Union will join the Schengen area. These are Bulgaria and Romania, states the European Commission.

The EC statement said that starting tomorrow, Schengen rules will apply in both of these member states, including the issuance of Schengen visas. In addition, controls at internal air and sea borders will be abolished.

"The Commission strongly welcomes this achievement, which is the result of the historic Council decision of December 2023," the European Commission said.

The statement also expresses the belief that the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area will make the common territory "more attractive by significantly expanding the world's largest common area without internal border controls."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called it a "great success" for both countries, as well as a "historic moment for the Schengen area," which is the largest free movement area in the world.

"Together we are building a stronger, more united Europe for all our citizens," she emphasized.

Romania and Bulgaria's path to Schengen

Back in 2011, the European Commission confirmed in its Schengen assessment reports that Bulgaria and Romania had fulfilled all the requirements to become part of the Schengen area.

Since December last year, both countries have taken all the necessary measures to ensure the smooth application of Schengen rules from March 31, 2024, according to the European Commission.

It also states that a regional police cooperation initiative has been established between member states along the Western Balkan and Eastern Mediterranean routes, including Bulgaria, Romania, Austria, Greece, Hungary and Slovakia, to combat challenges, in particular those related to cross-border crime.

Now, the EC Council will have to decide on the date for the abolition of checks at the internal land borders between Bulgaria, Romania and other Schengen countries.

Schengen area

A group of European countries that have agreed not to check the passports of people crossing the borders between them. This means that people can travel freely within the Schengen area without any problems.

Currently, the Schengen area includes 27 countries. After Romania and Bulgaria join, the number of members will increase to 29 states respectively.

In December 2023, Hungary threatened Bulgaria with a veto on Sofia's accession to the Schengen area of Europe. In particular, if Bulgaria does not cancel the transit fee for Russian gas.