European Commission calls for approval of three more countries to join Schengen Agreement

The European Commission has called on the EU member states to approve the accession of Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania to the Schengen Agreement. The three countries have met the conditions for joining the European visa-free regime and should benefit from participating in it "without further delay," the European Commission said in a statement.

It notes that these countries have contributed significantly to the normal functioning of the Schengen zone over the years, including during the pandemic and most recently when faced with the "unprecedented consequences" of events in Ukraine.

Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania expect to join the Schengen zone from 2023. Now it includes 22 EU countries and four non-EU countries (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein). The last time the list of Schengen countries was updated more than a decade ago, when Liechtenstein joined the agreement.

In November, the European Parliament voted in favor of Croatia's joining the Schengen zone. Romania and Bulgaria also meet the technical criteria for joining the Schengen zone. They joined the EU in 2007, but did not become members of the Schengen zone.

And now the Netherlands has not finally decided whether to support Romania's application for the Schengen zone, notes Bloomberg. Sweden's position on expanding the agreement is also unclear, although, according to Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu, his Swedish counterpart assured that Stockholm will not oppose it. The final decision on the issue should be made by EU justice ministers at a meeting in early December.

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