"Air Schengen" for Romania and Bulgaria

Austria's proposal has prevailed in Brussels: at the end of March 2024, EU internal border controls will be lifted for people travelling from Romania and Bulgaria - but only at airports and sea borders. The two countries have pledged to intensify their efforts to protect the EU's external borders and will receive additional funding for this purpose. Is the new arrangement an acceptable interim step on the path to full Schengen accession?

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republica.ro (RO) /

A truly helpful solution may be postponed

Romania has yet to overcome the biggest hurdles, writes republica.ro:

“The real problem is of an economic nature and will only be solved when our country is allowed to join the Schengen area with its land borders. ... That we are now joining through our air borders doesn't really help Romania, apart from the fact that the politicians can exploit it for populist purposes. For those who aren't aware: transport companies lose two billion euros a year because Romania is not in the Schengen area. That's around 20 percent of their turnover. And we should also be aware that with this partial accession there is a great possibility that the issue will now be removed from the EU's list of priorities.”

Trud (BG) /

A bad deal for Bulgaria

In exchange for its approval, Austria also demanded that Romania and Bulgaria accept additional asylum seekers. Trud is less than happy:

“The Austrians themselves say that air routes aren't a problem for them because the people smugglers operate at the land borders. In other words, the message is clear - Austria gives us the Afghans and Syrians, but closes the borders through which they can leave Bulgaria. Congratulations! ... No one is bothered by the fact that as an EU member we should have been accepted into the Schengen area without any conditions, and not as second-class Europeans who on top of that have to take in hundreds of thousands [sic!] of migrants.”

Club Z (BG) /

An important step in a difficult situation

Club Z stresses that the merits of partial accession should not be downplayed:

“In other times this would indeed have been a failure. But in view of two wars in Bulgaria's close proximity, the advance of populism and the far right in Europe and the rise to power of Eurosceptic parties, half-accession to Schengen is an opportunity we could not have missed. ... Romanian sources report that Austria is ready to lift its veto after the parliamentary elections in autumn. However it's unclear who will be in government in Vienna then and whether this promise will still apply. Sofia has therefore decided to go along with partial accession for now. Bulgaria and Romania will thus become part of the Schengen information system, which will make it impossible for them to be left in the waiting room for long.”