Croatia has been given the go-ahead to join Europe’s Schengen open travel zone, but Bulgaria and Romania have been excluded due to Austria’s resistance over concerns about uncontrolled immigration.
After consultations between the bloc’s interior ministers in Brussels, Croatia was approved to become the 27th Schengen zone member. Beginning in 2023, border checks will no longer be required between Croatia and the rest of the zone.
“Welcome, and congratulations!” exclaimed Ylva Johansson, the European commissioner for internal affairs. “To the citizens of Romania and Bulgaria: you deserve to be full Schengen members with access to free movement… I share the disappointment of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens.”
The prime minister of Romania, Nicolae Ciucă, expressed disappointment and indicated he would reapply to enter the zone. “We regret and honestly do not comprehend Austria’s inflexible stance,” he said. Bulgaria stated that it would likewise attempt again.
Austria’s interior minister, Gerhard Karner, opposed the applications of Romania and Bulgaria due to security concerns. “It is inappropriate to expand a system that does not function properly in many locations,” he remarked.
Karner reported that Austria had detected 100,000 irregular border crossings so far this year, including 75,000 individuals who had not been properly registered in other Schengen nations.
Accession requires unanimity from all members, including 22 EU states and Lichtenstein, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland. The Netherlands also opposed granting Bulgaria access, citing corruption and migration issues.