Bulgaria and Romania on Sunday joined the European Union’s Schengen pact area of free movement for citizens, joining much of the rest of Europe in allowing intra-continental movement by air and sea without border checks.
At the same time, a standing veto by the Austrian government means the new borderless travel will not apply for land routes, as Vienna has expressed concerns over an influx of foreign nationals entering its territory and the territory of other European states to request asylum status.
The admission to the zone comes after a 13-year wait.
“This is a great success for both countries and a historic moment for the Schengen area – the largest area of free movement in the world. Together, we are building a stronger, more united Europe for all our citizens ” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in hailing the development.
According to media reports, however, increased border police and immigration officers will be deployed to support passengers, while random checks will be carried out to detect travelers with fake travel documents.
In January 2023 Croatia became the Schengen pact’s 27th member in January 2023.
On its part, the Greek foreign minister took to X (formerly Twitter) to greet the arrival of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen “club”, stressing that “…Greece welcomes Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen zone! Congratulations to both countries for their successful efforts which secured the lifting of internal air and sea border checks. Their accession is an important milestone of European integration.”