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Partial accession to Schengen for Romania and Bulgaria

Romania and Bulgaria have reached an agreement with Austria on partial accession to the Schengen area. This concerns the abolition of border controls by air and sea. The opening of the land borders is still being negotiated.

From March 2024, Bulgaria and Romania can join the Schengen area. The governments of the two countries announced this after reaching an agreement with Austria.

However, the border controls will initially only be removed for air and sea traffic, as Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkow said. Austria still wants to stick to border controls when entering the country by land.

The government in Vienna explained that the “Schengen-Air” agreement initially only means that the passports of passengers from Romania and Bulgaria will in future only be checked by the airlines at the gate. There are currently no negotiations about full Schengen accession. At the end of 2022, Austria vetoed the two countries’ accession.

Stricter controls at external borders

Austria has been criticizing the high number of irregular migrants on the so-called Balkan route for years and has called for better protection of the EU’s external borders. At the beginning of December, the Austrian government offered that the Schengen borders on air traffic could be removed if the EU in return strengthened the external borders through stricter border controls.

The Schengen Agreement was signed in June 1985 by Germany, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Luxembourg. To date, the Schengen area includes 23 of the 27 EU member states as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Romania and Bulgaria have been EU member states since 2007.

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