EU ministers have taken the decision to allow Croatia to fully join the Schengen area next year. The news was announced Thursday afternoon, after a meeting of the Council.
Since its accession to the EU, Croatia has applied parts of the Schengen acquis, including those related to the external border controls, police cooperation and the use of the Schengen Information System.
The remaining parts of the Schengen acquis, which include the lifting of controls at internal borders and related measures, can only become applicable following a unanimous decision by the Council after it has been verified, in accordance with the applicable Schengen evaluation procedures, that they fulfil the necessary conditions. In December 2021, the Council concluded that the necessary conditions were fulfilled by Croatia.
From 1 January 2023, checks on persons at internal land and sea borders between Croatia and the other countries in the Schengen area will be lifted. Checks at internal air borders will be lifted from 26 March 2023, given the need for this to coincide with the dates of IATA summer/winter time schedule. From 1 January 2023 Croatia will also start issuing Schengen visas and will be able to make full use of the Schengen Information System.
I am very pleased that during the Czech Presidency, Croatia was able to take two important steps in its European integration by joining both the euro and the Schengen areas.Vít Rakušan, Czech Minister of Interior Affairs
This is the country’s second milestone in European integration this year, having received approval in July to also join the euro zone next year. “I am confident that these successes will pave the way for other member states who fulfil the conditions to take the next step in their European journeys, and my colleagues and I will continue to work hard to ensure that we can welcome Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen family in the near future”, said Czech Minister of Interior Affairs Vít Rakušan.
Romania and Bulgaria were also supposed to join Schengen at the same time as Croatia, all three countries having been touted with adherence over the past year. In November, the European Commission officially gave the green light for all three countries to join the area, however, a few fays before the Council meeting, Austria announced it would veto Romania and Bulgaria’s application, so the decision for the two countries was postponed. The Netherlands has also indicated opposition towards their admission.
Officials were still hoping that, despite the opposition, the Council would at least establish a concrete timeline for Romania and Bulgaria’s admission to Schengen, but, to the countries’ frustration, that issue was also left unresolved.