UNRESTRICTEDBulgaria and Romania Join Schengen Open-Travel Zone as Passport Checks Lifted for Air Travelers

Air travel dynamics in Europe underwent a significant shift as Bulgaria and Romania took a crucial step towards integration into the Schengen open-travel zone. The airports in Sofia and Bucharest eliminated passport checkpoints for travelers departing to or arriving from most European Union member states on Sunday, marking a milestone in the region’s travel protocols.

The decision comes after both countries clinched an agreement last year to join Europe’s free-travel area by air and sea. This move, however, excluded land crossings, as Austria raised concerns about the need for Romania and Bulgaria to enhance measures against illegal immigration.

Mincho Yurukov, a passenger arriving at Sofia airport from Berlin, expressed the sentiment shared by many: “Of course, this is a very beautiful achievement for Bulgaria which makes things easier for us, as Bulgarians. Also, we feel like Europeans, that is a very important thing, the flight is much nicer, no checks.”

Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov outlined Bulgaria’s roadmap towards full membership in the Schengen zone, stating that the country aims to complete the process by the end of the year. This would entail the removal of border checkpoints for both people and goods traveling by road and rail.

Romania also voiced its commitment to concluding negotiations on land borders by the end of the year, setting the stage for enhanced regional mobility.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed the development as a significant achievement, stating, “I welcome the lifting of internal air and sea border checks. This is a great success for both countries. Together, we are building a stronger, more united Europe for all our citizens.”

In a collaborative effort to address migration challenges, Bulgaria and Romania have joined forces with Austria, Greece, and Slovakia in a regional police initiative. Additionally, the European Union’s border agency, Frontex, announced plans to triple the number of officers deployed in Bulgaria, aiming to bolster border security and manage the flow of migrants, particularly those crossing from Turkey.

The inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania in the Schengen area signifies a significant stride towards harmonizing travel regulations and fostering greater integration within the European Union.


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