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Romania and Bulgaria Join the European Schengen Area in Part

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Bulgaria and Romania have finally made a partial entry into the Schengen area of unrestricted travel in Europe, after a 13-year wait. Late last year, the two nations came to an agreement to allow travel by air and sea within the continent’s free-movement region. Austria had previously opposed full membership, which would have included land crossings, citing worries over irregular migration.

Even with the partial membership, Sunday’s removal of restrictions at the air and sea borders of the two nations has important real-world and symbolic implications. As Mincho Yurukov said, “Of course, this is a very beautiful achievement for Bulgaria… we feel like Europeans,” travelers expressed relief and a sense of belonging to Europe.

More than 400 million individuals in the European Union can travel freely without going through internal border restrictions thanks to the Schengen area, which was created in 1985. The Schengen zone currently has 29 members due to the partial membership of Romania and Bulgaria.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, celebrated the lifting of internal air and sea border checks, highlighting the unity and strength it gives to Europe. She called it a wonderful victory for both countries.

Nevertheless, truck drivers suffer difficulties due to lengthy lines at borders with their European neighbors, which has led to calls for immediate action to complete Schengen integration. Extended wait times at borders have caused substantial financial losses for hauliers, especially those in Romania.

Businesses in Bulgaria are similarly frustrated with the slow pace of development, pointing out that while most commodities are transported by land, only a small portion of them presently enjoy the benefits of Schengen membership.

Bulgaria and Romania both reaffirm their commitment to Schengen integration in spite of obstacles. The irreversible character of the process was underscored by Romania’s Interior Minister Catalin Predoiu, who also stated that the extension of the process to land borders is required by 2024.

Austria has brought attention to the problem of irregular migration over the land borders of Bulgaria and Romania, underlining the ongoing need of migration management. Increasing Frontex presence and participating in a regional police initiative are two steps taken to address these concerns.

By the end of the year, Romania hopes to conclude negotiations on land borders, while Bulgaria hopes to join the Schengen area as a full member. Both nations are dedicated to enhancing border control and joining the Schengen region.

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