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Romania and Bulgaria Set to Join Schengen Zone via Air and Sea from March 2024

Last updated on Fri, 29 Dec, 2023

Officials from Romania and Bulgaria have announced their forthcoming inclusion in the Schengen border-free zone by air and sea, with the anticipated date set for March 2024.

Initially met with resistance from Austria due to concerns about potential illegal immigration, the objections were later withdrawn, and Austria agreed to the phased entry of the two Balkan states into the Schengen zone. Ongoing discussions are planned for the next year to address the prospect of opening land borders.

Romania and Bulgaria to Join Schengen

The Schengen area currently encompasses 27 countries, allowing seamless movement for 400 million individuals. Romania and Bulgaria, EU members since 2007, have pursued Schengen entry for over a decade, and the awaited approval will leave only Ireland and Cyprus as the remaining EU countries outside the zone.

Romania's Interior Ministry released a statement on December 23, confirming the agreement. Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu celebrated the news on Facebook, declaring, "After 13 years, finally Romania will join Schengen! We have a political agreement on this!" Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov also affirmed the deal during a government meeting at the year's end.

While Austrian officials continue negotiations, Vienna had initially vetoed Schengen expansion in 2022. However, they softened their stance earlier this month, proposing the concept of "Air Schengen" as a preliminary step before considering the opening of land borders. Austria expressed willingness to relax air travel rules for Romania and Bulgaria if the European Union took measures to fortify its external borders.

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