Croatia Joins Europe's Free-Travel Zone; Romania, Bulgaria Barred

Europe's 26-member free-travel zone welcomed Croatia as its latest member on Thursday, but opposition led by Austria is preventing Romania and Bulgaria from also joining amid criticism of growing unauthorized immigration.

Croatia Joins Europe's Free-Travel Zone; Romania, Bulgaria Barred
Image credit: AP [via Reuters]

Facts

  • Europe's 26-member free-travel zone welcomed Croatia as its latest member on Thursday, but opposition led by Austria is preventing Romania and Bulgaria from also joining amid criticism of growing unauthorized immigration.
  • The so-called Schengen area, which abolishes border checks between EU member states, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, is the world's largest free-travel zone.
  • Austria blocked Bulgaria and Romania’s entrance to the Schengen, arguing that too many undocumented migrants are crossing into Austria from the two countries and that "this needs to be solved first.”
  • The Netherlands also voiced its opposition to Bulgaria joining the zone despite supporting Romania’s bid, with France and Germany backing the applications of both Balkan states.
  • In November, the EU's executive, the European Commission, pushed for Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania to be granted membership to the zone, stating that they “have all the necessary tools, structures, and procedures in place to contribute to a well-functioning Schengen area.”
  • As citizens of EU member states, Bulgarians and Romanians have already had the right to travel freely and work throughout the EU since 2014.

Sources: Al Jazeera, Reuters, Euro News, Yahoo Fnance, Home-affairs, and Migrationobservatory.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by European Comission. These three countries have significantly contributed to the well-functioning of the Schengen area for years. They've performed well during the pandemic and when faced with the unprecedented consequences of the war in Ukraine. Through reinforced protection of the common external frontier, an enlarged Schengen area without internal borders will make Europe safer and more attractive to businesses. It's time to also welcome Romania and Bulgaria into the passport-free Schengen Area.
  • Narrative B, as provided by Times of Malta. At this point, it doesn't make sense to enlarge the EU's free-travel zone when it's clearly not working. Europe hasn't yet recovered from the 2015 influx of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in Syria, Afghanistan, and the African continent. Austria is still struggling to accommodate asylum requests, having more than 100K illegal border crossings this year alone. Admitting Bulgaria and Romania would only increase this irregular immigration.