Home Travel & Adventure Irregular Migration Concerns Won’t Hinder Bulgaria & Romania’s Land Border Accession

Irregular Migration Concerns Won’t Hinder Bulgaria & Romania’s Land Border Accession


Concerns over irregular migration, among others, have led to the postponement of Bulgaria and Romania’s membership to the Schengen Zone for 11 years. Yet, they are unlikely to impede land border accession for the two Balkan countries, the European Commission and Romania’s Foreign Affairs have told SchengenVisaInfo.

While airports and sea ports in both countries will benefit from streamlined procedures by abolishing passport controls for air and sea travel from March 31, upon the partial Schengen accession, passport controls will remain at land borders.

However, the absence of a concrete date for the enlargement of land borders for these two countries is not attributed to irregular migration concerns.

No New Conditions for Schengen Accession by Land, EU & Romania’s MFA Confirm

The European Commission and Romania’s MFA told SchengenVisaInfo that there are no new conditions regarding migrant quotas for land border accession.

The European Commission and Romania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirmed both countries’ commitment to adhere to the Dublin Regulation, an EU law determining responsibilities among EU countries for processing applications from third-country nationals seeking international protection in the bloc.

Romania and Bulgaria are committed to applying the Dublin acquit swiftly and diligently in full, through immediately taking back all asylum seekers for which Bulgaria and Romania are responsible,”.

A press officer for Home Affairs of the European Commission, Fiorella Boigner

Romania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told SchengenVisaInfo that Bucharest has consistently fulfilled its obligations under the Dublin Regulation and proved its solidarity with the most affected Member States.

Romania played an active and constructive role in the negotiations of the Pact on Asylum and Migration.

Romania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Austria’s Veto Remains

Vienna vetoed the membership of the two Balkan countries in December 2022, citing concerns over irregular migration, with Bulgaria facing additional opposition from the Netherlands, which has now reversed its stance on the matter.

Austria’s Air Schengen Proposal grants partial accession to these two countries for air and sea travel by the end of this month, but the country continues to veto their land border accession.

However, in January this year, Austria’s Interior Minister, Gerhard Karner, said it is not about Bulgaria and Romania, adding that “the entire migration system is in a catastrophic situation”. Irregular migration concerns led several countries to reintroduce border controls.

Bulgaria & Romania Have Stepped Up Their Work to Fight Migration

Nevertheless, both territories succeeded in effectively managing the migration situation. In 2023, Romania’s immigration authorities deported 1,222 individuals from various countries. Concurrently, Bulgarian authorities reported detaining 2,528 third-country citizens attempting to leave the country.

Last year, authorities in Sofia apprehended 1,729 irregular migrants at the border with Turkey, preventing over 178,200 attempts of irregular border crossings in the Turkish-Bulgarian region. Additionally, the number of irregular migrants at Bulgaria’s border with Greece decreased by 86 per cent in 2023 compared to 2022.

Furthermore, in March 2023, the two countries implemented pilot projects aimed at improving the management of the migration situation, also focusing on expediting asylum and return procedures, with the Commission reporting six months later substantial progress as a result of these initiatives.

In June last year, the Commission allocated additional funding of €45 million to Bulgaria and €10.8 million to Romania to enhance their border capabilities.

Land Border Accession Should Be Finalised on May 1, Expert Says

Remaining outside the Schengen Area has resulted in significant financial losses for both Balkan countries. Due to stoppages at land borders, businesses in Bulgaria have suffered at least €1 billion in losses, while a report by the National Union of Road Hauliers from Romania (UNTRR) noted that €2.41 billion in losses were registered for the road freight industry in Romania due to remaining outside the passport-free travel zone.

Unlike his fellow citizen, Interior Minister Gerhard Karner, Austrian economist and politician Gunther Fehlinger told SchengenVisaInfo that the EU Commission has certified Bulgaria and Romania are ready for Schengen.

Furthermore, he said that the membership of these two countries to the Schengen Zone in terms of land borders must be finalised on May 1, 2024.

Bulgaria and Romania are ready for Schengen and must be accepted fully, including land borders, on May 1, 2024, the Day we celebrate EU Enlargement, 20 years of 10 new countries joining EU 2004 and before the EU elections.

Austrian economist and politician, Gunther Fehlinger
Fehlinger emphasised that new conditions for the accession of both these two countries to the Schengen Zone are unacceptable and must be rejected.

The EU Commission has certified Bulgaria is ready for Schengen. Any more conditions are unacceptable and must be rejected. Bulgaria and Romania are doing the maximum to fulfil all requirements and keep the borders safe.

Austrian economist and politician, Gunther Fehlinger

Fehlinger said that only full land Schengen accession can smooth the Romanian public ahead of the crucial election in June 2024 in Romania.

The Austrian economist believes that these two countries should become part of Schengen on May 1, 2024, stressing that “everything else would be a major defeat of the European idea and project and serves only the enemies of Europe.”

Austria must lift this veto now, and Romania and Bulgaria must join Schengen fully on that important 1. May 2024 to mark European Unity and the success of an enlarged EU. Those who oppose this Schengen enlargement serve our enemies. This is unacceptable and must be ended now.

Austrian economist and politician, Gunther Fehlinger

The Vice-President of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, also recently said that after the elections for the European Parliament, he expects Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen Zone in terms of land borders.

Full Implementation of Schengen Regulations Effective March 31

A press officer for Home Affairs of the European Commission, Fiorella Boigner, confirmed for SVI that from March 31, the Council decision on the full application of all provisions of the Schengen acquis will apply in full, including the provisions of the Visa Code.

In addition, she stressed that both Romania and Bulgaria, as all other Schengen Member States, will be eligible to issue multiple-entry visas valid for up to five years.

Romania, as all other Schengen Member States, will have to apply the rules of the Visa Code. This means they will be able to issue multiple-entry visas with a validity of up to five years.

A press officer for Home Affairs of the European Commission, Fiorella Boigner

Boigner stressed that national short-stay visas issued by both Romania and Bulgaria before March 31, 2024, will remain valid during their period of validity for the purpose of transit through or stays in the Member States area, not surpassing 90 days in any 190-day period.

The 90/180-Days of Permitted Stay Rule to Be Applied to Both Countries From March 31

The European Commission confirmed that from March 31, the 90/180-day rule must apply directly to Bulgaria and Romania since the Schengen rules apply in full. It also emphasised that the application of the rule cannot be dependent on whether a person has entered the territory by one type of border or another.

A press officer for Home Affairs of the European Commission asserted that within the Schengen framework, Home Affairs Ministers meet regularly in the Schengen Council in order to discuss matters related to their countries’ common responsibilities related to Schengen.

She emphasized that meetings of the Schengen Council in 2024 (March, June, October and December) provide important opportunities for the Ministers to make a subsequent decision on the lifting of controls at the land borders

Boigner added that deliverables of the Schengen Cycle, such as the Schengen Barometer and the State of Schengen Report, should bring evidence and facts back to the political discussion and provide important elements for informed decision-making.

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