The popular holiday destination Croatia could finally get the green light today to join the control-free Schengen area. At a meeting in Brussels, the EU interior ministers are to vote on expanding the network of currently 26 European countries. On the other hand, the situation is less promising for Bulgaria and Romania – their unrestricted accession to Schengen is likely to fail due to resistance from the Netherlands and Austria. Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) is expected to attend the meeting for Germany.
The EU Commission recently pushed for Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania to be included in the Schengen area, between whose members there are usually no stationary border controls. The authority decided in mid-November that the addition of the trio would make the EU safer and more attractive and contribute to greater prosperity. Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria are already partially bound by the Schengen rules, but internal border controls with them have not yet been lifted.
Tourist traffic jams cause chaos
That's why huge tourist traffic jams form every summer on the border with Croatia. After the vote today, controls at land borders could be abolished as early as the beginning of 2023, and at airports from March next year. Croatia will also introduce the euro as a means of payment in 2023.
Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer recently made it clear that lifting border controls with regard to Romania and Bulgaria is out of the question for his country at this point in time. The reason he gave was that too many unregistered migrants were arriving in Austria. "That means they crossed an external EU border and still got through in a country like Austria. These security issues must first be clarified," said the conservative politician.
The resistance of the Netherlands is directed solely against Bulgaria, for example because of constitutional concerns. It takes more time for a decision, said Prime Minister Mark Rutte recently.
World's largest area of freedom to travel
The Schengen area currently includes 22 EU countries as well as Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland. This makes it the world's largest area of freedom to travel. New members can only be admitted unanimously. In addition, the European Parliament must agree, which has already happened in the case of Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria. Romania and Bulgaria have been waiting since 2011 for the decision that would lift border controls.
In addition to the Schengen expansion, the topic of migration is also on the agenda at the meeting of interior ministers, including the prospect of a possible increase in people seeking protection from Ukraine next winter.