European Union (EU) member states reached a unanimous agreement on Saturday to eliminate air and maritime internal border controls with Bulgaria and Romania, paving the way for the two countries to gain full access to the Schengen area, according to the Council of the EU.
Commencing March 31, 2024, checks on individuals at EU internal air and maritime borders between Bulgaria and Romania and the other Schengen countries will be removed, said the Council.
Regarding the remaining aspects of the Schengen acquis, which include the lifting of controls at internal borders and related measures, the Council said it will make decisions following the applicable Schengen evaluation procedures when the two countries fulfill necessary conditions.
Originating as an intergovernmental project among five EU member states in 1985, Europe’s Schengen area of free movement has gradually expanded through seven enlargement stages.
The Schengen area currently comprises 27 countries, spanning over 4 million square km, with a population of almost 420 million people. With the inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria, the Schengen area is set to grow to 4.5 million square km, accommodating a population of 450 million.