In the latest State of Schengen Report, published on May 16, the EU Commission has called on the Council to allow Romania and Bulgaria to become full members of the Schengen Area in 2023.
The report highlights the achievements of the European bloc in relation to its borderless area and outlines key priorities for the upcoming year. The call comes ahead of the second Schengen Council scheduled for June 8.
Schengen Accession Listed as Top Priority
The EU Commission emphasizes the importance of European unity and urges the Council to enable Romania and Bulgaria to join Schengen in a press release accompanying the report. The inclusion of these two countries in the Schengen Area is identified as one of the bloc’s primary objectives.
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Croatia’s Membership Recognized as Significant Achievement
The report also acknowledges the accession of Croatia to the Schengen Area as a notable accomplishment since the previous year.
Ylva Johansson, the Commissioner for Home Affairs, describes the Schengen Area as “the beating heart of Europe” and stresses its role in connecting member states.
Enhanced police cooperation, improved information exchange, border monitoring, and visa oversight are highlighted as operational benefits resulting from increased membership.
Austria’s Opposition and Other Countries’ Support
While Croatia successfully joined the Schengen Area on January 1, Romania and Bulgaria still await membership, primarily due to Austria’s opposition.
Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg states that Austria will maintain its veto until a sustained decline in asylum seekers is observed, as the country experienced a significant increase in asylum applications in 2022.
Austria’s Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Karner, also claims that seven per cent of those involved in smuggling migrants into Austria are Romanians. Nevertheless, other EU countries, including Germany and Hungary, are staunch supporters of the Schengen accession of Romania and Bulgaria.
Additional Priorities Outlined in the Report
The EU Commission has identified several key priorities in the State of Schengen Report, in addition to advocating for the enlargement of the border-free area.
These priorities include the implementation of the Entry-Exit System to reinforce external borders, maximizing the utilization of the Schengen Information System (SIS) to enhance the effectiveness of the return system, replacing lengthy internal border controls with alternative police cooperation measures, aligning the visa policies of third-country partners with those of the EU, and abolishing high-risk investor citizenship and residence schemes.
Upcoming Schengen Council Meeting
Member States are set to convene on June 8 for the second Schengen Council meeting, during which the listed priorities and other report findings will be discussed in detail.
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