Members of the European Parliament have called on the Council of the EU to approve Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen free-travel area by the end of 2023.
In a resolution adopted on Wednesday with 526 votes in favour, 57 votes against, and 42 abstaining, Parliament stressed that both countries have already fulfilled the necessary requirements to be admitted into Schengen.
In a statement, the European Parliament said that MEPs regretted the Council’s decision last December to reject their membership “without presenting any legal justification related to accession criteria”.
According to the MEPs, a larger Schengen area without border controls would make the EU stronger.
“All member states have the right to join Schengen once they are ready,” they said.
The fact that Romania and Bulgaria are still outside the visa-free travel area burdens the businesses and populations of the two countries socially and economically, according to the European Parliament.
“Citizens of Bulgaria and Romania are discriminated against, as they face delays, bureaucratic difficulties and additional costs when travelling or doing business abroad, compared to their counterparts in the Schengen area,” says the text.
MEPs note that the delays at border crossings faced by Romanians and Bulgarians can last from a few hours to even days – compared to an average of 10 minutes without internal border checks. This also worsens working conditions for truck drivers, added the MEPs.
Currently, all EU member states except Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania are part of the Schengen free-travel area, which also includes non-EU states Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
The European Commission has assessed that Bulgaria and Romania are ready to join Schengen, and the European Parliament has repeatedly supported their accession, most recently in a resolution on October 5, 2022, and a debate on December 14, 2022.