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Schengen Zone Expands to Include Bulgaria and Romania

In a significant development, the European Union has welcomed two new countries into its passport-free Schengen travel zone. Bulgaria and Romania, which have been on the path to joining the Schengen Area since 2007, have now partially joined the coalition, allowing for seamless air and sea travel within the zone.

The Schengen Agreement, established in 1995, has been a transformative initiative, creating an area of open borders among many European Union countries. This has made it increasingly easy for travelers to move between these nations, often without even realizing they have crossed an international boundary.

“I welcome the lifting of internal air and sea border checks,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission. “This is a great success for both countries and a historic moment for the Schengen area — the largest area of free movement in the world.”

Partial Membership and Continued Land Border Checks

 

While Bulgaria and Romania have now joined the Schengen Zone for air and sea travel, their land borders will still require some identity document checks. This is due to concerns expressed by the member state of Austria about illegal immigration flows through these two countries.

“Bulgaria and Romania have been fulfilling all criteria for joining the Schengen area for years – we are entitled to join with the terrestrial border as well,” said Siegfried Muresan, a Romanian Member of the European Parliament.

The partial membership has been met with some criticism, with some lawmakers feeling that the countries were being asked to meet a “moving target” that was not required of other nations joining the Schengen Zone.

Significance for Travelers

The inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania in the Schengen Area will have significant implications for travelers. Those entering these countries by air or sea from other EU nations will no longer need to present their passports at the airport or port of entry.

This change is expected to be particularly beneficial for the growing number of tourists visiting these destinations, which have seen a surge in popularity in recent years, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The partial ascension was called out by some lawmakers who felt like they were being asked to hit a moving target not required of other countries,”

Expert Commentary

“This is a significant milestone for the Schengen Zone, which continues to evolve and expand, strengthening the concept of a borderless Europe,” said Dr. Emma Grahame, a European affairs analyst. “While the partial membership for Bulgaria and Romania is a compromise solution, it represents progress and sets the stage for the eventual full integration of these countries into the Schengen Area.”

The inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania in the Schengen Zone is a testament to the ongoing efforts to create a more seamless and integrated travel experience within the European Union. As the Schengen Area continues to grow, it will likely have far-reaching implications for both European citizens and visitors alike.

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