According to Bucharest, Bulgaria and Romania will implement the Schengen Act in their air and sea borders from March 2024. Interior Minister Gerhard Garner (ÖVP) made the offer at the beginning of December.
The agreement was reached on 23 December between the Interior Ministries in Vienna, Sofia and Bucharest, and was then discussed through diplomatic channels, foreign ministries and EU delegations, thus becoming legally incorporated into the decisions of the Permanent Delegation. (COREPER) continued by the Romanian Ministry of the Interior.
Negotiations “in full swing”
Accordingly, negotiations on full Schengen membership should continue “at full speed” next year, taking into account Austria's demands for increased external border protection and the Dublin III regulation.
In its broadcast, the Interior Ministry in Bucharest thanked the European Commission and the Spanish EU Council Presidency and the Interior Ministries in Vienna and Sofia for “constructive discussions”. A short time later, Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolagu announced in a Facebook post that his country's authorities were determined to successfully conclude negotiations on full Schengen membership next year.
Finally alone with denial
The refusal to ratify has for months strained relations with the two countries, whose economies are heavily involved in Austria. Romania has temporarily recalled its ambassador and economic sanctions are also under consideration.
Austria is currently alone within the EU in its opposition to the Schengen accession of Bulgaria and Romania. The Dutch Justice Ministry announced before Christmas that it was withdrawing its veto against Bulgaria's membership of the Schengen area based on deficiencies in the law. However, this change of course still needs to be confirmed by a vote in the Dutch parliament.
We have been waiting for years for the freedom to travel
The visa-free zone of the Schengen area currently covers 27 European countries with 400 million citizens. It includes 23 EU countries and four partner countries: Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
After more than ten years of waiting, the Schengen countries once again slammed the door in the face of EU members Bulgaria and Romania at the end of last year. At the time, Austria vetoed the two countries' approval, and the Netherlands voted against Bulgaria's application.