Bulgaria and Romania to join Schengen: what will change for Ukrainians?
The accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area has important implications for Ukrainians in terms of visa-free travel in Europe. Find out more about when Ukrainians will be able to enjoy the "classic" visa-free regime under the Schengen Agreement
After much anticipation, Bulgaria and Romania are finally joining the Schengen area. On March 1, 2024, air and sea border controls between these two countries and other Schengen members will be suspended. However, control on land borders will remain unchanged, RBC-Ukraine reports.
It is noted that the changes also affect Ukrainians and have important consequences. Read more about what will change in the article below.
Two EU countries to join the Schengen area: details
The Schengen area currently includes 27 countries, covers more than 4 million square kilometers, and is home to almost 420 million people. The accession of Romania and Bulgaria will expand the area to 4.5 million square kilometers and a population of 450 million. An important milestone will be the decision on the possible abolition of inspections at land borders, and this issue will be discussed during 2024.
After Bulgaria and Romania join the Schengen area, Ukrainians will be able to travel to these countries under the "classic" visa-free regime - up to 90 days within 180 days. Previously, these countries provided Ukrainians with an additional 90 days of visa-free stay for tourist trips, unless the person applied for temporary protection status.
Partial membership in Schengen
The European Commission confirmed for the first time that Bulgaria and Romania were ready to join the Schengen area without internal border controls back in 2011.
European Council President Charles Michel called the move a long-awaited one for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens, pointing to easier freedom of movement for both people and transport.
This is a historic moment in the expansion of the Schengen area, as these countries become partial members of the free movement area.
As you know, Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007, and in 2011 the European Commission determined that they met the requirements for full Schengen accession.
In 2022, in the context of discussions on the possibility of Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia joining the Schengen area, the Commission again asked the Council to "take the necessary decision to allow these three countries to become full members of the Schengen Agreement".
Although Croatia joined the EU only in 2013, it became a full member of the Schengen area in 2023. Checks at land borders were canceled on January 1, and at air borders in March, to coincide with summer/winter flights according to the schedule set by the International Air Transport Association.
For several years, Bulgaria and Romania's accession was hindered by vetoes from the Netherlands, and more recently from Austria. Austria abstained from voting in favor of the decision out of resentment, expressing fear that both countries would not effectively protect Schengen borders from the flow of migrants.
According to the Financial Times, in order to force the Austrian government to support a favorable decision, Romania threatened to file a lawsuit worth several billion euros and also threatened to postpone a gas drilling project of the Austrian energy company OMV in the Black Sea.
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