The European Council decided to expand the Schengen Free Area to include Bulgaria and Romania, the Spanish Presidency of the Council announced on Saturday.
Controls on air and sea borders will be lifted as of March 2024, and discussions on lifting controls on land borders will continue in the new year, according to a statement by the European Commission.
Welcoming the two countries, the Commission said: “The expansion of the Schengen Area will make the European Union stronger as a union, both internally and on the global stage.”
The Schengen Area currently provides unrestricted travel within the territories of 26 countries (including 22 EU countries), and includes more than 400 million citizens, making it the largest free movement area in the world, according to the Commission.
The Commission also said that the decision to add Bulgaria and Romania was unanimously approved by the European Council, noting that it had sent several “fact-finding missions” in 2022 and 2023 to the countries’ external borders to confirm their readiness to join Schengen.
European Council President Charles Michel sent his congratulations to Romania and Bulgaria via
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the decision as a “historic moment for Bulgaria and Romania.” A day of great pride for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens… This is a big step forward for both countries and the Schengen area as a whole.”
Romania and Bulgaria also praised the decision, with Romanian Foreign Minister Luminita Odubescu writing in X that it was “an important result for the citizens of Romania.” Our thanks to all EU partners and institutions for the support. Romania remains committed to a strong and secure Schengen Area.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis echoed his Foreign Minister's comments, saying on the X website that it was “an important step for the benefit of the Romanian people.”
Meanwhile, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Maria Gabriel posted on X that “today Schengen is stronger with Bulgaria and Romania.”
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