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14 June, 2024
 
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Romania and Bulgaria to be part of the EU Schengen area in 2024

After years of opposition, Austria signals support for March entry, easing tensions and paving the way for broader EU cooperation

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Romania and Bulgaria are set to join the EU's Schengen area in March, signaling the conclusion of talks with Austria, according to a report in the Financial Times. While Vienna had long opposed the move, recent indications suggest a shift in stance, with a potential endorsement for a phased expansion that starts with the inclusion of Bulgarian and Romanian airports. This development follows an agreement reached just before Christmas, as disclosed by the Romanian interior ministry. Although both Romania and Bulgaria met the Schengen entry criteria by 2010 after joining the EU in 2007, concerns over corruption and Austria's apprehensions about border control had impeded their inclusion in the border-free area.

Negotiations are currently ongoing to incorporate the airports of Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen agreement, with Austria specifying conditions such as heightened border protection and a willingness to accept migrants, particularly from conflict regions like Syria and Afghanistan. Croatia's inclusion in Schengen a year ago, which excluded Romania and Bulgaria, heightened tensions. In response, Romania considered legal action against Vienna and linked delays in a joint energy project with Austria to progress on the Schengen front. Bulgaria faced its own challenges, introducing a transit tax on Russian gas that crossed its territory, impacting Austrian interests. The tax was later revoked under Hungary's threat to veto Bulgaria's Schengen accession. While Austria and the two aspiring members have reached a preliminary agreement, final approval from other EU member states is required, with additional discussions anticipated. The potential inclusion of seaports in the agreement holds significance for neighboring Ukraine, as Romania's Black Sea port of Constanta could serve as an alternative route for Ukrainian exports amid Russia's ongoing conflict.

[Source: Financial Times]

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