The Ministry of the Interior in Romania announced on Wednesday evening that it has reached a political agreement with ministries in Austria and Bulgaria for the expansion of the Schengen Area to include Romania and Bulgaria, initially extending to air and sea borders from March 2024. This marks a significant milestone for Romania, reflecting years of effort to align with the stringent criteria set by the European Union for Schengen membership.
The integration into the Schengen Zone will occur in stages, starting with air and sea borders, followed by negotiations throughout the year for the inclusion of land borders.
For Romania, accession to the Schengen Area is a validation of its efforts in improving border security, law enforcement cooperation, and data protection standards. It is also expected to boost tourism and trade, as travel and transport become more efficient. Furthermore, it is seen as a step towards deeper integration into the core structures of the European Union, enhancing Romania's role and voice within the EU.
The transformation of the political agreement into a decision requires the consent of all EU Member States, a procedural step that will also continue on 28th December 2023. The Ministry of the Interior expressed gratitude to various national and European bodies for their support during the negotiations, emphasising the collaborative effort involved in this significant diplomatic achievement.
The Schengen Area, comprising 26 European countries, is notable for abolishing passports and other types of border control at their mutual borders. It represents one of the most tangible expressions of European unity, facilitating free and seamless movement of people, goods, services, and capital. For Romania, joining the Schengen Area means not only a strengthening of its position within the European Union but also significant economic and social benefits.
The Ministry remains fully committed, alongside the President of Romania, the Prime Minister, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to continue diplomatic efforts until the process is finalised through a decision, marking a new era in Romania's European journey.