Bulgaria, Romania partially join EU's visa-free Schengen zone

(VOVWORLD) - Bulgaria and Romania joined Europe's vast Schengen area of free movement on Sunday, opening up travel by air and sea without border checks after a 13-year wait.
Bulgaria, Romania partially join EU's visa-free Schengen zone - ảnh 1Travelers walk next to newly installed signs pointing to Schengen and non-Schengen areas minutes after midnight, just after Romania's official entry into the European area of free circulation at Otopeni's "Henri Coanda" international airport on March 31, 2024. (Photo: AFP)

A veto by Austria however means the new status will not apply to land routes, after Vienna expressed concerns over a potential influx of asylum seekers.

Despite the partial membership, the lifting of controls at the two countries' air and sea borders is of significant symbolic value. 

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement Saturday that 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.

"Together, we are building a stronger, more united Europe for all our citizens," she said.

With Bulgaria and Romania joining Sunday, the Schengen zone will comprise 29 members -- 25 of the 27 European Union member states as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

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