Romania, Bulgaria enter zone Schengen

Airports in Sofia and Bucharest have today checked passports for those arriving from or departing for most EU member countries as they have joined the EU’s free movement zone, Schengen. The two countries reached an agreement at the end of last year to join the Schengen area from the air and sea as Austria opposed their full membership – and thus land movements are not yet included – saying that Romania and Bulgaria need to do more to prevent illegal immigration. The outgoing government’s interior minister, Kalin Stojanov, told reporters today that Bulgaria is expected to become a full member of Schengen by the end of the year, meaning border controls will be abolished for people and goods travelling by road or by rail. For his part, the Romanian Prime Minister said the country expects to conclude negotiations on land borders this year. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leien, in an announcement welcomed this development by describing it as “a great success for both countries” and stated that “we are building together a stronger, more united Europe for all our citizens.” Bulgaria and Romania have joined a regional police force along with Austria, Greece and Slovakia to deal with migration flows. The EU Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) is responsible for cooperation between national border guards and border guards of the Schengen zone Member States. Last month she announced that she would triple her number of officers in Bulgaria to help deal with the number of people entering the bloc from Turkey.