The governments of Bulgaria and Romania have reached a partial agreement with the Austrian government for their entry into the Schengen Area, the free movement zone that includes most European countries. Controls on air and sea borders will be abolished as of March 2024, while the agreement does not stipulate the abolition of controls on land borders. The entry of the two countries into the Schengen Area has been blocked until now due to the veto power used by Austria.
Austria proposed partial membership in December, defined as “Air Schengen”. Negotiations on the abolition of land border controls have been postponed to new meetings scheduled for 2024. The Austrian government said it was ready to accept full entry of the two countries into the European area with free movement of citizens if the European Commission strengthens controls at the EU's external borders: especially the border between Bulgaria and Turkey.
Austria fears the possibility of a large number of migrants entering from those borders, as happened for many years on the border between Turkey and Greece, and the possibility of opening a new migration route leading from Turkey to Bulgaria, Romania and the rest of the world. Union countries.
About 420 million people live in the Schengen Area, from 27 countries: 23 member states of the European Union (including Italy), to which Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein have been added. However, four EU countries are not part of it: Ireland decided not to join the Schengen Agreement (named after the country of Luxembourg where it was signed), Cyprus has not reached the necessary requirements, and Cyprus has not reached the necessary requirements. Romania and Bulgaria have not yet reached a political agreement: entry requires the approval of all other member states.
Bulgaria and Romania have been members of the European Union since 1 January 2007, and completed the technical requirements for joining the Schengen Area in 2011. Croatia was the last country to join, on 1 January 2023.
Bulgaria has experienced years of political instability, which President Rumen Radev, a former general, took advantage of to increase his personal powers and install interim governments (five elections were held within two years). Some of these interim governments appear to be working to bring Bulgaria closer to Russia. However, since June, the two pro-Western parties (Citizens for European Development in Bulgaria) and Let's Continue Change (PP) have reached an agreement to form a coalition government: to enter the Schengen Area and implement the necessary measures to open its doors. European funds were the main targets of the new government.
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