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Passport Checks Abolished for Air Travelers as Bulgaria and Romania Join Schengen Zone

Passport Checks Abolished for Air Travelers as Bulgaria and Romania Join Schengen Zone –

Historic Moment for Southeast European Nations

On March 31, 2024, Bulgaria and Romania achieved a significant milestone by partially joining the European Union’s Schengen area. This development allowed airports in the capital cities of Sofia and Bucharest to remove passport check points for passengers arriving from or departing to most EU member states.

“This is a very beautiful achievement for Bulgaria which makes things easier for us, as Bulgarians,” expressed Mincho Yurukov, a traveler arriving at Sofia airport from Berlin. “Also, we feel like Europeans, that is a very important thing, the flight is much nicer, no checks.”

Overcoming Obstacles to Partial Schengen Membership

Passport Checks Abolished for Air Travelers as Bulgaria and Romania Join Schengen Zone

The road to Schengen membership was not without hurdles for the two Southeast European nations. Austria had initially opposed their full inclusion, citing concerns over illegal immigration and the need for further efforts to address this issue.

However, a compromise was reached, granting Bulgaria and Romania partial membership. This allowed them to join the Schengen open-travel zone for air and sea travel while negotiations continue for land border crossings.

Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov expressed optimism, stating that Bulgaria should become a full Schengen member by the end of 2024, leading to the removal of border check points for road and rail travel as well.

European Commission President’s Endorsement

Welcoming the development, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen issued a statement, saying, “I welcome the lifting of internal air and sea border checks. This is a great success for both countries.”

She emphasized the significance of this achievement, adding, “Together, we are building a stronger, more united Europe for all our citizens.”

Addressing Migration Concerns

To alleviate concerns regarding illegal immigration, Bulgaria and Romania have joined a regional police initiative with Austria, Greece, and Slovakia. This collaborative effort aims to counter the flow of migrants more effectively.

Additionally, the European Union’s border agency, Frontex, announced plans last month to triple the number of its officers in Bulgaria. This move is intended to help stem the influx of people crossing into the bloc from Turkey.

“While the Schengen expansion is a positive step, it is crucial that Bulgaria and Romania continue their efforts to curb illegal immigration and strengthen border security,” remarked Jill Gallagher, a European policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Maintaining the integrity of the Schengen area is essential for the free movement of people within the EU.”

Benefits for Travelers and Businesses

The elimination of air travel passport checks is expected to bring significant benefits for both travelers and businesses operating within the Schengen zone. Passengers can anticipate smoother and more efficient airport experiences, saving time and reducing hassle.

Furthermore, businesses engaged in cross-border activities within the Schengen area are likely to experience reduced administrative burdens and costs associated with travel documentation and procedures.

Ongoing Process for Full Integration

Despite the progress made, the journey towards full Schengen integration for Bulgaria and Romania is ongoing. Negotiations continue regarding the removal of land border checks, a process that is expected to be completed by the end of 2024, according to government officials from both countries.

As the Schengen area expands, ensuring a balanced approach that addresses security concerns while promoting freedom of movement remains a critical challenge for EU policymakers and member states.

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