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Romania, Bulgaria expected to join Schengen zone


Romania, Bulgaria expected to join Schengen zone

Romania and Bulgaria are expected to partially join the Schengen zone today.

In December 2023, the two countries reached an agreement with Austria to partially join Europe’s passport-free Schengen area, after Austria opposed the idea at a meeting of EU interior ministers a year ago. At the time, Austria argued that illegal immigration remained too high and that the two countries had to do more to mitigate the issue before joining.

Major routes for illegal arms trade and drug and human trafficking take place around Romania and Bulgaria. However, an investigation by the European Commission concluded that the two countries meet all Schengen requirements. Romania criticized Austria’s opposition, citing EU border agency Frontex data illustrating that illegal migrants have primarily entered the EU from the Western Balkans, not Romania.

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Though the partial agreement is a step towards full membership, it is unlikely that Austria would approve the granting of passport-free travel at land borders in the near future. The Bulgarian Prime Minister said Sofia would not agree to one of Austria’s conditions—to accept more migrants from Syria and Afghanistan. Additionally, the issue will likely be highly politicized amid this year’s elections, particularly by far-right groups hoping to gain influence, therefore preventing the countries from reaching an agreement.

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