On December 30, 2023, the EU Council endorsed Bulgaria and Romania’s entry into the Schengen area, starting with the lifting of air and maritime border controls from March 31, 2024. This decision, marking a 12-year negotiation period, is a significant stride towards their full integration into the Schengen zone, as acknowledged by Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska Gómez.
The EU Commission, with President von der Leyen at the forefront, commended this move, seeing it as a boost to travel, trade, and tourism, and an enhancement of the internal market. This step for Bulgaria and Romania follows the successful inclusion of Croatia into the Schengen area in 2023, which was a major milestone in the expansion of the Schengen zone and demonstrated the EU’s commitment to unifying its member states.
Bulgaria and Romania, progressing steadily towards Schengen membership since their EU accession, have demonstrated their readiness, first confirmed in 2011. The EU has fortified the Schengen framework with robust security measures, culminating in this ninth expansion, showcasing the trust and unity among Member States.
As the Schengen area prepares to extend further, discussions are set to continue in 2024 about removing internal land border checks. Bulgaria and Romania are set to receive ongoing support, including financial aid and coordination from Frontex, in managing their external borders. This expansion, building on Croatia’s recent accession, further strengthens the EU’s vision of a cohesive and connected Europe.