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Why Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria's Schengen membership is good for Europe

The Schengen Area, the world’s largest border-control-free travel zone, may soon be expanded to include three new members. Currently, it consists of 22 EU member states and 4 non-EU countries: Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Now, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria – the youngest EU members – are on the right track to become Schengen members. This is a boon for the group’s start-ups and corporates.

Last week, the European Parliament’s MPEs approved the introduction of Croatia, urging the Council to move forward with the process and a final decision, confirming in December 2021 that the country has met all the necessary conditions for the full application of Schengen rules.

Rapporteur and MPE Paulo Rangel, commenting on the matter, emphasized that Croatia has so far undergone the “most comprehensive” assessment of Schengen membership by any other EU member state, having satisfied the eight areas of the respective legislation 281 recommendations.

“The committee and the council have confirmed that the country is ready to apply for the integrity of the Schengen rules. The European Parliament is in full agreement: Internal border controls must be lifted by the end of this year,” he added.

Romania and Bulgaria have also been knocking on Schengen’s door since 2011.

Although the EU Council and Parliament confirmed in the same year that both countries met all the required criteria, the Netherlands and Finland vetoed their accession, citing actions to combat corruption and organized crime insufficient.

However, last month, parliament – for the fourth time since 2018 – expressed support for admitting Bulgaria and Romania into Schengen without delay.

On Wednesday, the committee again called on the Council to allow the three Balkan countries to enter the Schengen area.

Schengen area Schengen Area

Why joining Schengen is good for everyone

According to the committee, the three countries have met all the conditions for joining Schengen. Most importantly, they have been bound by the region’s rules for years and supported the surrounding region — especially during the pandemic and the Ukraine crisis.

However, internal border controls with these Member States were not lifted and, therefore, they did not enjoy the full ensuing benefits. But what are the benefits of joining a free trade zone?

Well, that is the uninterrupted flow of people, goods and services – this is at the heart of the Schengen agreement and the key to making it happen. European prosperity.

According to EU statistics, nearly 1.7 million people live in one Schengen country while working in another, and about 3.5 million people cross internal borders every day. Europeans also make an estimated 1.25 billion trips a year in the region.

Overall freedom of movement brings significant economic benefits to the participating countries in the region and Europe as a whole.

In fact, intra-European trade has been growing since the inception of the agreement – reaching 6.786 billion euros in 2021. The study also showed that bilateral net trade between the two Schengen member states increased by 0.09% per year.

Furthermore, the lack of internal border controls provides Schengen businesses with a competitive advantage. It ensures the fast and efficient flow of goods and services across borders, the smooth functioning of supply chains and the seamless flow of internal markets and capital.

In other words, the Schengen agreement is the main factor in the EU becoming the world’s largest economic area. That means its expansion could increase Europe’s prosperity and attractiveness by further eliminating time wasted at borders and boosting people and business connections.

As Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President Promotion of our European Way of Life said, “Schengen would not be complete without all our member states. A more inclusive Schengen would be a stronger, more Safe Schengen.”

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