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The EU supports Croatia’s entry into Schengen, rejects Bulgaria and Romania

The members of the European Union confirmed Croatia’s admission to the bloc’s passport-free Schengen area and rejected the candidacies of Bulgaria and Romania.

The decisions were made on Thursday during a meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels.

“Last step completed! Council decision adopted: Croatia is now formally confirmed to join the Schengen area from January 1, 2023,” Croatia’s permanent representation to the EU said in a tweet on Thursday.

“The Schengen area is growing for the first time in over a decade,” tweeted the Czech Republic, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU. “The ministers approved the membership of Croatia from January 1, 2023!”

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EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said Romania and Bulgaria have been denied access to the area.

“When it comes to the accession of Romania and Bulgaria, we are not united and that makes us very weak and that also makes me sad,” he said.

“They deserve to be full members of Schengen, they deserve to have access to free movement in the Schengen area,” Johansson said.

unanimous support

The full accession of the newest members of the EU (Bulgaria and Romania joined the bloc in 2007, Croatia in 2013) required the unanimous support of their partners.

All three countries already partially adhere to the Schengen regulation, but internal border controls have not yet been lifted.

The heist has long been over concerns among the trio’s partners about the scope of organized crime, unauthorized migration and other security concerns.

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Last month, the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, ruled that the three candidate countries meet the technical criteria for joining, and the European Parliament also voted in favor of their membership.

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Croatia’s offer had not met any notable opposition from its EU partners. But ahead of Thursday’s meeting, it seemed almost certain that Austria would veto immigration offers from Bulgaria and Romania, as increasing numbers of people cross its borders illegally through the Balkan region.

Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner renewed his country’s firm opposition, noting that more than 100,000 people have entered Austria this year without authorization.

“The system is not working right now,” he told reporters.

Pathways for asylum seekers

Austrian officials are anxious that the abolition of internal border controls could turn Bulgaria and Romania into pathways for asylum seekers.

Right-wing lawmakers from the Sweden Democrats party have opposed membership from the three hopeful countries, citing similar concerns.

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Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca said on Wednesday that his government has had “highest-level meetings” with Austria to try to ease concerns, noting that data shows that “Romania is not in the migratory flows that would raise fears.” “.

“Illegal immigration is politically very sensitive in many member states… but blocking Romania’s accession to Schengen will not bring the answers that Austria wants,” he told a news conference, adding that “the current state of uncertainty cannot continue.” .

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also caused a furor last week when he alleged that Bulgarian border security officials could accept cash bribes.

The Dutch parliament also has a say, which means Bulgaria is more likely to join later than the other two candidates.


Bulgarian President Rumen Radev responded by writing on Facebook that three Bulgarian border officials have been killed in recent months while protecting the bloc’s external borders.

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“Instead of European solidarity,” Radev said, “Bulgaria gets cynicism.”

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In an effort to ease their partners’ concerns, Bulgaria and Romania have invited EU fact-finding missions with national experts twice in recent months to see how things have improved.

Hungary also seemed ready to delay its entry, as it has done with several EU issues requiring unanimous votes in recent months, mainly due to objections from the right-wing government that its access to European disaster recovery funds the pandemic is being delayed by corruption concerns. .

The so-called Schengen area comprises 26 countries: 22 EU states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Almost 1.7 million people live in one Schengen country and work in another. Around 3.5 million people cross an internal border every day without having to show their identification.

The Schengen rulebook allows free movement for more than 400 million European citizens and businesses, but nations can introduce temporary checks on the grounds of internal threats to national security, and several do so routinely.

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