Romania and Bulgaria’s Path to Schengen and Tourism Growth

The recent partial inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria into Europe’s Schengen travel zone marks a significant milestone in their journey towards greater integration with the European Union. This development allows for free access to travellers arriving by air or sea, signalling a step forward in streamlining travel within the EU. However, checks at land borders will remain in place despite this progress due to concerns primarily raised by Austria regarding illegal migration.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has hailed this move as a historic moment for the world’s largest free travel zone. The Schengen Area, established in 1985, has seen steady expansion over the years, encompassing 23 EU member countries along with Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. Around 3.5 million people, including Romania and Bulgaria, cross internal borders daily, underscoring the importance of facilitating seamless travel within the EU.

While Romania and Bulgaria’s road to Schengen membership has been long and arduous, the recent partial inclusion is viewed as a significant step forward. Siegfried Muresan, a Romanian Member of the European Parliament, emphasizes the benefits this move will bring to millions of travellers annually. Additionally, Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu sees it as a well-deserved achievement that will ease travel for citizens and bolster the economy.

However, the path to full accession to the Schengen Area is not without its challenges. Despite meeting the technical criteria for full accession, both Romania and Bulgaria require unanimous support from their EU partners. Moreover, concerns have been raised regarding the implementation of security measures to combat illegal migration and cross-border crime.

The partial inclusion into the Schengen zone is expected to impact the tourism sector positively. However, there are concerns about potential land-borders disruptions, particularly for truck drivers. Long queues and delays at borders between Romania, Bulgaria, and other EU countries have been a significant issue, with estimates suggesting substantial financial losses for the transport sector.