Bulgaria and Romania are set to join the Schengen Zone through air and sea routes in March 2024, as confirmed by Bulgaria’s Prime Minister, Nikolay Denkov.
During a joint briefing with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Maria Gabriel and Minister of Internal Affairs Kalin Stoyanov, Denkov highlighted the significance of visa Schengen accession, emphasizing that access to information and procedures within the Schengen area will be granted, marking a two-stage process.
The initial stage, involving the opening of sea and air borders, is imminent, with subsequent discussions on land borders scheduled for the following year, contingent on successful earlier stages.
Denkov underscored Austria’s support in negotiations, indicating that the goal for 2024 is to secure a date for the removal of barriers and the inclusion of land borders in the Schengen Zone. In collaboration with Austria, Bulgaria aims to demonstrate progress and strengthen external borders.
“The entry into Schengen will take place with this act, because entering the Schengen area in the first place gives access to information and procedures that apply. It will be two-stage, but the trust we are getting will be realized now – with the opening of sea and air borders. If there are no surprises, the next stage should follow the first,” said Denkov.
The Council of Ministers of Bulgaria revealed that Austria has advocated for European Commission support, encompassing funding, technical assistance, and experts, aligning Vienna’s interests with Sofia’s objectives.
While Austria and the Netherlands had previously raised concerns about irregular migration, leading to the blockage of Bulgaria’s Schengen accession in December of the previous year, the Netherlands recently confirmed its support for Bulgaria’s EU visa-free travel zone membership.
However, Austria’s Interior Minister, Gerhard Karner, proposed “Air Schengen” with four conditions for the partial inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen visa countries. Despite past delays, an agreement has been reached between Sofia, Bucharest, and Vienna, marking a significant step forward for citizens who have awaited this development for over a decade.