Greece’s initiative on the enlargement of the Schengen Zone to Bulgaria and Romania

Mitarachi’s meeting with the Austrian Chancellor, Karl Nehammer

The Minister of Migration & Asylum, Mr. Notis Mitarachi, was welcomed today in Vienna by the Austrian Chancellor, Mr. Karl Nehammer, while yesterday he met the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Gerhard Karner. 

Greece takes the initiative to support Bulgaria and Romania’s application to join the Schengen zone. This enlargement will also have direct benefits for Greece, as we will now be united by road the other Member States of the European Union, within the Schengen zone. On this initiative, we are in contact with the Swedish Presidency and the European Commission. 

Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union in 2005 and in 2011 successfully completed the evaluation procedures for their integration to the Schengen area, which was endorsed by the Conclusions of the Council of Justice and Home Affairs of the EU on June 9th, 2011. Since then, the European Commission has repeatedly expressed the aspect that the two countries are ready to join the Schengen area without internal border controls.   

In 2022, by Bulgaria and Romania’s initiative, a new EU field mission took place, confirming that the two countries continue to effectively meet strict Schengen standards and have an exemplary track record in implementing them. 

This issue, as well as Croatia’s full integration in Schengen zone, was discussed at the Council of Justice and Home Affairs of the EU on December 8th, 2022. While Croatia’s application was unanimously accepted, Bulgaria and Romania’s applications were rejected due to objections by two countries (Austria and the Netherlands). The vast majority of the member states expressed support to the two countries, stressing that their integration would strengthen the credibility and security of the Union.   

Greece supports the integration of Bulgaria and Romania, as it will contribute to the country’s economic activity stimulation, through a land connection with the Schengen area and enhance the security of the EU’s external borders. 

The Minister of Migration and Asylum, Mr. Notis Mitarachi stated:   

“Greece is taking the initiative to support Bulgaria and Romania’s application to join the Schengen zone. This enlargement will also bring direct benefits for Greece, which is now united by road with the other Member States of the European Union. I met here in Vienna with the Austrian Chancellor, Mr. Karl Nehammer, and the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Gerhard Karner, and I will visit Sofia and Bucharest next week. There are issues to be resolved, especially issues related to migration, the protection of our external borders, an issue which requires a more coordinated, but also a stricter, European policy. For this initiative we are in contact with the Swedish Presidency and the European Commission.”

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