Bulgaria and Romania Partial Entry into Schengen Area

Politics - March 14, 2024

Partial opening of the Schengen area for Bulgaria and Romania, apparently to date a fully satisfactory solution has not yet been found for the two States, which manage to snatch only partial admission into the coveted common area.

The space that most significantly represents, perhaps, the European single market, as well as free movement among citizens of the various states, fails to bring everyone together. Created in 1985, to date more than 420 million people belong to it.

Internal and external borders: a political issue only

The EU, according to some, should think about protecting its borders more before welcoming Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen area where there are, instead, 27 countries of which 23 belong to the member states, except Cyprus and Ireland, and then Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, all, however, part of the European Free Trade Association.

The main problem is that no real solution can be found with regard to the internal borders of the individual member states, or rather, it seems as if instead of focusing on the real and concrete threat that can come from the external borders of the EU, the focus is on an internal closure with little cooperation and definitely no clear understanding from those who should instead be fighting for a common front. In this way, the Schengen area becomes a muddle with a purely political flavor that has little to do with the necessary cultural and economic vision that unites the different states.

What blocks the passage?

The two eastern countries, meanwhile, have been trying in vain for years, to join the area (more than ten since they joined in 2007), but with little success. There is no square one for unanimity, a necessary factor for rejoining the area’s membership.

And while there are those who want to see this as the result of discrimination, there are those who make it a matter of international security, which may, in the long run, harm the stability of individual member states.

Blocking the move would be, primarily, concern over the entry of irregular immigrants. While the positions of some member states have softened over the years, this issue is brought forward, in recent times, mainly by Austria, which has not yet declared itself willing to take the step. The point raised by the state would concern the protection of Europe’s external borders, which is considered inadequate with respect to the issue of illegal immigrants, and as Austria is one of the states that receives the largest number of immigrants on its territory (in 2022 alone there were more than 10,000 asylum applications), it goes without saying that the threshold of attention to this issue remains very high. Austria also blames other member states for not respecting the “first entry” rule, i.e., the possibility of applying for asylum in the first country one lands in, as MEP Lukas Mandl, of the Austrian People’s Party, said in a press interview.

The current situation continues to open the debate

Romania and Bulgaria, for their part, have pledged to the Union to better control their borders and, above all, to fight illegal immigration already on their territory. However, although in April there will be free access as far as sea and air lines are concerned, agreement has not yet been reached regarding the full entry of the two states into the Schengen area, with free access also as far as land borders are concerned. What, then, should be the obvious sign of the European Union, becomes the bone of contention and accentuates one of the most complex issues in the EU sphere, namely sharing and thinking united toward a common goal. 2024 will be a crucial year for the debate on the subject.