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Bulgaria and Romania become part of Europe’s Schengen area, land routes excluded

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NEW DELHI: After a 13-year wait, Bulgaria and Romania have officially become part of Europe’s Schengen area, a move that ensures unrestricted air and sea travel for people of the two countries. However, border checks will continue on the land routes due to Austria’s veto over concerns about a potential increase in asylum seekers.
The Schengen area, established in 1985, facilitates free movement for over 400 million individuals without internal border checks.It now has 29 members – 25 EU states along with Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen celebrated the inclusion of both the nations in the Schengen area.
“This is a great success for both countries, and a historic moment for the Schengen area — the largest area of free movement in the world,” said EU chief Ursula von der Leyen.
Romania has announced that Schengen rules will apply to four sea ports and 17 airports, with Otopeni airport serving as a key hub for Schengen flights. Additional staff, including border police and immigration officers, will be deployed at airports to enhance security measures and prevent illegal exits from Romania.
Both Bulgaria and Romania aim to fully integrate into Schengen by the end of the year, by including the land routes as well.
While some celebrate this development, for the truck drivers, exclusion of land routes would mean that they will still have to deal with long queues at the borders leading to financial losses.
The UNTRR union, one of Romania’s main road transport unions, highlighted the difficulties faced by truckers while crossing the border. They usually wait eight to 16 hours at the border with Hungary, and from 20 to 30 hours at the Bulgarian border, said the UNTRR.
Bulgarian businesses have also raised their concern regarding the non-inclusion of land routes. Vasil Velev, president of the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association (BICA) said that around 97 percent of goods are by land.

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