• Newspaper Archive What is the Schengen Area?
  • Borders This was the veto in 2022 on Bulgaria and Romania

European Union (EU) countries unanimously agreed on Saturday the gradual entry of Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen free movement area after Austria, the last of the 27 countries to oppose the measure, lifted its veto.

The decision means that, as of March, controls at the internal air and sea borders with these two countries - which joined the EU in 2007 - will be eliminated, with the commitment of Austria, Bulgaria and Romania to agree later on the date of the end of land controls, reported the Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU.

"Congratulations to the citizens of Romania and Bulgaria on the extension of Schengen for sea and air transport passengers," European Council President Charles Michel said on his Twitter profile.

Michel pointed out that this is "a long-awaited step by Romanian and Bulgarian citizens to enjoy easier freedom of movement, with the prospect of land transport to come."

Sources from the Spanish Ministry of the Interior described the agreement - which culminates 12 years of negotiations - as "historic" and assured that it was one of the priorities of the rotating Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU, which ends tomorrow.

They also stated that the progressive lifting of controls at the internal borders of Bulgaria and Romania will "strengthen and expand" the European area of free movement and facilitate the movement of millions of people, with "a very positive social and economic impact on the entire region".

Austria confirmed today the withdrawal of its veto of the agreement, which was already announced on Wednesday by Romania and, on Thursday, by Bulgaria.

Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu had assured on Wednesday that the agreement would also include sea travel, which would benefit the Black Sea port of Constanta, and he was confident that full membership would be negotiated in 2024.

Despite the fact that the European Commission and the European Parliament have been assuring for years that Bulgaria and Romania, members of the EU since 2007, are ready to enter Schengen, Austria had so far blocked their entry.

The Schengen Treaty provides for the lifting of border controls between its member states, which currently cover 4.3 million square kilometres and 423 million citizens of 27 European countries (23 EU members and 4 non-EU members).

  • European Union