In a landmark decision on December 30, 2023, the EU Council unanimously agreed to eliminate air and maritime internal border controls with Bulgaria and Romania. This historic move, finalized through a written procedure, marks the culmination of 12 years of negotiations, further expanding the Schengen area’s free movement zone.
Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska Gómez expressed his satisfaction with this development. Starting 31 March 2024, coinciding with the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) winter/summer schedule change, passengers will no longer face checks at EU internal air and maritime borders between these two countries and other Schengen states.
This decision represents a significant step towards complete integration of Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen zone. Since joining the EU, both countries have partially implemented the Schengen acquis, involving external border controls, police cooperation, and the use of the Schengen Information System. The Council’s decision to lift internal border controls, a crucial part of the Schengen acquis, comes after thorough evaluation procedures confirming that both nations meet the necessary conditions.
The Council will soon deliberate on a date to remove checks at internal land borders, further solidifying the expansion of the Schengen area.