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EU Allows Croatia To Join Schengen But Rejects Romania & Bulgaria For Border Free-zone

The ministers of the European Union have voted to accept Croatia into the Twenty six-nation, border-free Schengen zone, but have rejected Romania and Bulgaria.

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The ministers of the European Union have voted to accept Croatia into the Twenty six-nation, border-free Schengen zone, but have rejected Romania and Bulgaria. This decision was greeted with relief in Zagreb, but anger and dismay in Bucharest and Sofia. While Germany's foreign minister Annalena Baerbock called it a bad day for Europe, the EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson felt disappointed. The European Commission had backed all three countries as all were meeting the criteria necessary for joining the zone. 

In 2013, Croatia joined the EU while Romania and Bulgaria became member states six years earlier, yet the two countries haven't been accepted for the border-free Schengen zone.

Croatia to decommission its border crossings with EU neighbours Slovenia and Hungary 

While praising the decision, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that Croatia will decommission its border crossings with EU neighbours Slovenia and Hungary on 1 January, the same day as it joins the euro. The Schengen zone was created in 1985 and has allowed people and goods to travel freely which means traveling without showing travel or customs documents which includes 22 of the EU's 27 states as well as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. 

Austria and the Netherlands voted against Romania and Bulgaria while citing the concerns of both countries being soft on illegal migration. The most vehement opposition came from Austria. While justifying his veto, Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner said, "It is not right for a system that is not working in many places to be expanded at this time," reported BBC. In fact, the government in Vienna has also cited a rapid increase in the number of migrants entering Austria illegally through the West Balkan route. 

However, political leaders in Romania and Bulgaria argued that relatively few cross their territory and that their bid to join Schengen has been derailed for political reasons. Romania acclaimed that it did not understand Austria's "inflexible decision". Further, Marcel Ciolacu added, "European unity and stability received a tough blow today from a state that chose, in difficult times, to abandon its European comrades and serve instead the interests of Russia." But Ivan Demerdzhiev, Bulgaria's acting interior minister, dealt with the decision more diplomatically as he said, "Austria has made it clear it is ready for compromise and wants a complete reform of the Schengen area in those places where the mechanisms do not work." The migration researcher Judith Kohlenberger pointed out that the majority of people who had come to Austria for protection were already in the EU.

"To blame Romania and Bulgaria but not Hungary or even Croatia, which continue systematic push-backs, is both irrational and hypocritical," she said as per BBC.

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