Croatia Joins the Schengen Area in 2023; Romania and Bulgaria Denied

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Croatia became an official member of the Schengen Area in 2023 after being voted in by the EU Council. The country has also fully adopted the euro.

However, both Bulgaria and Romania have been denied membership in the same vote.

All 3 countries are members of the European Union (EU) and are obliged to join the Schengen open-borders region once they meet the relevant criteria.

Despite this, ongoing concerns about security and readiness to follow Schengen’s border control protocols have led existing member states to block Croatia from joining the bloc until now.

Croatia has become the 28th country in the Schengen Area. It joins 23 fellow EU member states and the 4 members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) — Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

Romania and Bulgaria have been forced to wait as their bids to join have once again been blocked by certain member states.

Croatia Joins the Schengen Area in 2023

When Will Croatia Become a Schengen Member?

On January 1, 2023, Croatia became part of the Schengen Area. Starting from this date, there will no longer be any border controls between Croatia and the other countries in the Schengen bloc, including the land borders with Slovenia and Hungary.

Croatia will also begin to use the Schengen Information System (SIS) and apply the Schengen acquis (regulations) in full from January 1.

It has been a long path to full membership of the Schengen Area for Croatia.

Croatia was the last nation to join the EU, becoming a member in 2013. It has taken almost a decade to become part of Schengen.

The European Commission evaluated Croatia between 2016 and 2020. It concluded that the country was ready, having taken the necessary steps to apply all of Schengen’s rules and regulations. Border control standards were found to meet those expected of Schengen members.

The European Parliament also gave a positive recommendation in November 2022.

This paved the way for the final vote on December 8. The result from the EU Council was unanimous in favor of Croatia finally joining the Schengen zone.

The Presidency of the Council of the European Union pointed out how historic this moment is in the following tweet:

“The Schengen Area is growing for the first time in more than a decade. Ministers approved Croatia’s membership as of 1 January 2023!”

How does Croatia’s accession to Schengen affect travel?

As a member of the Schengen zone, Croatia will not carry out border checks on travelers arriving from other member states.

The idea is to make it possible to travel freely throughout the entire bloc. Passengers only need to show their passports and visas when arriving from a country outside the Area.

Croatia’s visa policy will now be in line with the rest of the Schengen Area. This includes the use of the ETIAS visa waiver platform when it is introduced in late 2023.

Croatia joins the eurozone

Along with becoming a member of the Schengen zone, Croatia has also joined the eurozone. The country has become the 20th nation to adopt this currency.

The euro was already used across Croatia–-for bank deposits and in certain tourist areas. However, it was not an official member of the eurozone until now.

The new currency in Croatia features a map of the country and the inventor Nikola Tesla.

Why Were Romania and Bulgaria Denied Schengen Membership?

While Croatia has been successful in its bid for Schengen membership, Bulgaria and Romania have found themselves frustrated again.

Although most EU countries supported their application, the vote had to be unanimous to be approved, and certain members were opposed to them joining.

Romania’s bid for membership was blocked by Austria alone.

Bulgaria’s was blocked by both Austria and the Netherlands.

Austria objected to both countries due to concerns about illegal migration. Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer gave the following statement:

“At the moment, we have 75,000 unregistered illegal migrants in Austria – meaning they have crossed an external EU border and made it to Austria. This needs to be solved first.”

Austria’s stance has raised eyebrows from other European politicians.

German Interior Minister, Nancy Faeser reiterated her nation’s support for both Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to Schengen, stating: “I cannot understand Austria’s position in this respect. I know that Austria has big domestic debates over the issue.”

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said the decision was “profoundly unfair for our country and for Romanian citizens.”

Bulgarian Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev gave the following statement:

“The argument of Austria is that Schengen is not working and we must unite our efforts to make Schengen work as it has to, and then enlarge it with Bulgaria and Romania. Until then, Bulgaria is not responsible for the internal problems in Austria.”

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson also spoke out about the result of the vote, promising to continue with both countries’ bids for membership:

“They have fulfilled all the requirements necessary. They deserve to be part of Schengen.”

It is likely that another vote will be held in the future. Until then, Bulgaria and Romania will continue to push for membership, but will remain outside the Schengen Area.

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