Bulgaria, Romania take first steps into Europe’s vast visa-free zone


BUCHAREST: After 13 years of waiting, Bulgaria and Romania are to partially join the Europe’s vast Schengen area of free movement today (Sunday), opening up travel by air and sea without border checks. But land border controls will remain in place due to Austria’s opposition to the eastern European countries becoming full members of the Schengen zone for fear of an 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.

Admission to Schengen is an “important mile­stone” for Bulgaria and Romania, symbolising a “question of dignity, of belonging to the European Union,” according to foreign policy analyst Stefan Popescu. “Any Romanian who had to walk down a lane separate from other European citizens felt be­ing treated differently,” he told AFP.

Ivan Petrov, a 35-year-old Bulgarian marketing executive who lives in France, said he was enthusi­astic about less stressful travelling and the time he would be able to save.__The Nation