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German chancellor backs Bulgaria and Romania’s Schengen bid

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During a speech at the Charles University in Prague, the German chancellor expressed his support for Bulgaria and Romania to join the much coveted Schengen Area.

In the speech, Scholz (pictured) noted that "Schengen is one of the greatest achievements of the European Union and we must protect and develop it. This means, moreover, closing the remaining gaps and states like Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria meet all the technical requirements for full membership."

Romania politicians were exhilarated by the news given that in recent years, Germany and the Netherlands have been the main opponents of Romania's accession to the Schengen Area, while France - which initially had the same position - has become a supporter of Romania's entry into Schengen.

In a post on Twitter, social democrat Marcel Ciolacu, the head of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies wrote that "the family of European socialists is the only European party that supports the Romanians".

Romania president Klaus Iohannis welcomed the announcement saying also on Twitter that this has been a strategic objective for Romania.

Last year, the European Parliament called for Romania and Bulgaria to receive full membership of the passport-free Schengen zone.The EU Commission also made a similar request, when proposing a strategy towards a stronger more efficient and resilient Schengen zone.

Bulgaria and Romania's bid to join the control-free travel area, however, has been a bumpy ride. After it was approved by the European parliament in June 2011, the Council of Ministers rejected it in September that year - with the French, Dutch, and Finnish governments citing concerns on shortcomings in anti-corruption measures and in the fight against crime.

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While France switched to backing Romania's bid, opposition continued from Germany, Finland and the Netherlands. In 2018 the European parliament voted for a resolution proposing to accept both countries, requesting that the council "act swiftly" on the matter. Similar to Bulgaria and Romania, Croatia is also legally-bound to join the Schengen area - but with no clear deadline in sight. In Romania, officials say the country has been ready for years to join Schengen.

Entering the travel free Schengen Area would bring significant benefits from both Bulgaria and Romania.

Through this accession, Romanian and Bulgarian citizens and cargo carriers will no longer have to go through the border check procedure with member states in Schengen, which will lead to a significant shortening of waiting times at the border. For example, if Romania and Bulgaria also enter Schengen, the road to Greece will no longer be marked by long waits at Romanian-Bulgarian customs and Bulgarian-Greek customs.

The final decision on Schengen-zone accession is a political one and must be taken unanimously by all members of the European Council, which gathers the heads of state or government of all EU member countries.

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