2024April 2024International News

Bulgaria and Romania Partially Join Schengen Area

Sofia A. Diaz
Staff Writer 

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Bulgaria and Romania are the newest partial members of the Schengen Area, the border-free travel zone guaranteeing free movement of goods, people, and capital, which is now comprised of 29 members. Despite the veto from Austria, which enforces the new Schengen status in Bulgaria and Romania to remain unchanged for land borders, their accession is significant for both countries, aiding efforts to install ties to the European Union (EU). 

After a 13-year effort, Bulgaria and Romania partially joined Schengen on Sunday, allowing for controls over both air and sea borders to be lifted. The Romanian government announced that Schengen rules will now apply to four seaports and 17 airports and further noted that the Otopeni Airport, nearing Bucharest, which serves as the largest hot spot for flights through the Schengen zone, according to France 24

Nationals are ecstatic to learn that they will be able to save time while traveling, as they are now able to avoid waiting at internal border checkpoints. Al Jazeera reports traveler Mincho Yurukov, having arrived at Sofia Airport in from Berlin on Sunday, to have stated, “Of course this is a very beautiful achievement for Bulgaria which makes things easier for us, as Bulgarians.” Although many nationals are celebrating this accomplishment, there is a population that is not entirely enthusiastic about the partial accession. 

Austria, the Schengen member to veto the full accession of Bulgaria and Romania, has opposed the checkpoints being lifted at land borders, expressing concerns about illegal immigration into the area. Al Jazeera reports the primary concern of the Austrian leaders is due to a concern of an inability to regulate migration, particularly through the Sofia and Bucharest borders. 

The rejection of a full integration into Schengen has left the National Union of Road Hauliers from Romania (UNTRR) discontented. UNTRR is advocating for urgent measures to be taken to achieve full accession into the free-travel zone. Secretary General Radu Dinescu of the UNTRR stated “Romanian hauliers have lost billions of euros every year, just because of long waiting times at borders.” Moreover, the trucker’s union mentioned that they endure an eight to 16 hour wait time at the Hungarian border and 20-30 hours at the Bulgarian border, according to Al Jazeera. 

Dinescu further describes his discontent with the partial status, as he has denounced “Austria’s hypocrisy,” in stating his belief that Hungarian and Bulgarian authorities are intentionally creating barriers in opposition to free movement within the “single market,” says UNTRR. The organization continued and illuminated their belief that this prevention is allowing for Hungary and Bulgaria to obtain their own economic advantages without regarding the disadvantages Romanians are facing from it.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

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