BRUSSELS: The EU on Thursday approved Croatia as the newest member of the border check-free Schengen zone from next month, but Austria and the Netherlands blocked Romania and Bulgaria from joining.
Croatia’s accession from January 1 will make it the 27th member of Schengen, which would then comprise 23 of the EU’s 27 countries, plus Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. The outcome was bitter news for Bulgaria and Romania, the EU’s two poorest nations, which have been trying for a decade to join Schengen and whose bids were linked together, unlike Croatia’s.
Decisions on enlarging Schengen have to be taken unanimously, but Austria applied its veto, fearing that having Bulgaria and Romania in the Schengen area would increase already high inflows of asylum-seekers. The Netherlands was equally intent on keeping Bulgaria out, which impacted Romania’s twinned bid.
“Despite the disappointment that we will see from these two member states, we have a firm decision and readiness to continue” to get into Schengen, said Bulgarian Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev.
Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2022