Romania and Bulgaria Edge Closer to EU Integration with Partial Schengen Accession

View of the Bulgaria-Romania Border, Symbolizing Progress Towards EU Integration with Partial Schengen Accession
Romania and Bulgaria Edge Closer to EU Integration with Partial Schengen Accession

On 1 April 2024, Romania and Bulgaria took

a significant step towards integration with the European Union (EU) by partially joining the Schengen Area, Europe’s ID-check-free travel zone. This move, however, did not eliminate land border checks, as Austria has opposed their full accession due to concerns about illegal migration.


  • Romania and Bulgaria became EU members in 2007, while Croatia joined in 2013.
  • Before this partial admission, the Schengen Area consisted of 23 EU countries and four associated countries.
  • Each day, around 3.5 million people cross internal borders within the Schengen Area.

Criteria for Accession:

  • The European Commission has affirmed that Romania and Bulgaria meet the technical criteria for full Schengen Area accession.
  • Full accession requires unanimous support from all member states.
  • Both countries have agreed to implement random security screening at airports and maritime borders to combat illegal migration and cross-border crime.

Impact on Travel and Economy:

  • The easing of border controls is expected to enhance operations at Bulgaria’s four international airports, particularly the Sofia airport, which is a major hub for Schengen flights, accounting for 70% of all flights.
  • The relaxed regulations are anticipated to positively impact the tourism sector in both countries.

Concerns and Challenges:

  • Members of the European Parliament have expressed concerns about long queues at the EU’s land borders, impacting trade in the single market and the health and safety of drivers.
  • Truck drivers often face delays at the borders of Romania and Bulgaria, costing the sector tens of millions of euros annually.

Future Plans:

  • Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu aims for full Schengen Area accession by the end of 2024.
  • Bulgaria’s interior minister, Kalin Stoyanov, also affirmed that Bulgaria aims for full accession by the end of 2024.

About the Schengen Area:

  • Covers a population of over 420 million people and an area of 4,312,099 square kilometers (1,664,911 square miles).
  • The Schengen Agreement was signed on 14 June 1985 by five of the ten member states of the then European Economic Community (EEC) near the town of Schengen in Luxembourg.
  • Operates as a single jurisdiction for international travel purposes, with external border controls but no internal border controls.

About Romania:

  • Located in southeastern Europe, with Bucharest as its capital and largest city.
  • Home to the Carpathian Mountains, the Danube River, and the Black Sea coast.
  • Population of around 19 million people, with Romanian as the official language.

About Bulgaria:

  • Situated in the Balkan region of Europe, bordering Romania to the north and Turkey to the south, with Sofia as its capital and largest city.
  • Population of approximately 7 million people, known for its beaches along the Black Sea coast, ski resorts in the mountains, and ancient historical sites.
  • Official language is Bulgarian.

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