Romania and Bulgaria have joined Europe’s ID-check-free travel zone on Sunday (31), after a 13-year wait. Although now there will be free access for travellers arriving by air or sea from both countries, land border checks will remain in place.

One of the main reasons of the partial restriction is the opposition of Austria over illegal migration concerns. The country vetoed Romania and Bulgaria’s admission into the Schengen zone at the end of 2022, while allowing Croatia full accession years earlier.

“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,” said President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen welcoming the lifting of internal air and sea border checks.

Since last December, both Member States have taken all necessary measures to ensure a smooth application of the Schengen rules.

According to the European Commission in a Schengen Evaluation report, since 2011 both Bulgaria and Romania have met all requirements to be fully part of the Schengen area.

The Schengen area without control at its internal borders started in 1985 as an intergovernmental project between five Member States – Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Netherlands. With Bulgaria and Romania joining the Schengen zone, it will now comprise 29 members – 25 of them members of the European Union.

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