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December 8 (SeeNews) - Croatia will join the EU’s passport-free travel Schengen area on January 1, 2023, but Bulgaria and Romania failed to obtain the required unanimous support from all 27 member states for their accession bids, the EU Council said on Thursday.
Bulgaria was backed by 25 out of 27 member states, while Romania was just one vote short, EU Commissioner for home affairs Ylva Johansson said as seen in a live video broadcast by the EU Council.
"I will support all steps to ensure Bulgaria and Romania receive membership, they deserve to become members of Schengen as they fulfill all necessary criteria for admission. On this occasion, we are not united and that makes us weak," Johansson said.
According to Vit Rakusan, the interior minister of the Czech Republic which has held the six-month rotating presidency of the EU Council since July, the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen will continue to be a high priority and the Czech Republic will push to make it so under the upcoming Swedish presidency starting from January 1.
Romania and Bulgaria have been waiting to join the Schengen area since 2011 when the EU Commission and Parliament first gave the green light for their accession.
In October, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) adopted a resolution calling for the abolition of checks at all internal borders for both countries from early 2023.
Last month, the EU Commission also urged Council to take the necessary decisions without any further delay to allow Bulgaria and Romania to fully participate in the passport-free Schengen area.
Since then, both the Netherlands and Austria have openly voiced concerns about the two Southeast European countries' accession, citing problems with illegal migration from non-EU countries.
Currently, Bulgaria and Romania apply the Schengen acquis partially and checks are carried out at their borders.
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