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Nov 16, 2022 15:01 EEST
November 16 (SeeNews) - The European Commission (EC) on Wednesday called upon the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council to take the necessary decisions without any further delay to allow Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia to fully participate in the passport-free Schengen area.
The Commission takes stock of the three member states' strong record of achievements in the application of the Schengen rules, it said in a press release.
On December 8, the JHA Council, which is one of the configurations of the Council of the European Union, will vote on the full participation of Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia to the Schengen area without internal border controls.
"For years, these Member States have significantly contributed to the well-functioning of the Schengen area, including during the time of the pandemic and more recently when faced with the unprecedented consequences of the war in Ukraine," the Commission said.
"Becoming fully part of the Schengen area is a requirement for these Member States and they should therefore be permitted to do so given that they fulfil the conditions."
According to the EU's executive body, Romania has high-quality and strong border management, including border surveillance and systematic border checks, and international police cooperation. Also, the country is actively tackling irregular migration and trafficking in human beings.
In Bulgaria's case, the Commission praised a strong border management with efficient surveillance and systematic border checks, while also assessing that fight against cross-border crime is prioritised through international police cooperation, including with Europol.
In both countries, the Commission notes the existence of a well-established Schengen Information System and of necessary structures to ensure respect for fundamental rights, guaranteeing access to international protection, and respecting the principle of non-refoulement.
Bulgaria and Romania successfully completed the Schengen evaluation process in 2011. A voluntary fact-finding mission, which took place in October 2022, confirmed that Bulgaria and Romania have not only continued implementing the new rules and tools, but that they have also substantially reinforced the overall application of the Schengen architecture in all its dimensions.
In October, the European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution inviting the Council to allow Romania and Bulgaria to join the Schengen area.
In December 2021, the Council confirmed that Croatia had fulfilled the conditions required to join the Schengen area without internal border controls. On November 10, the EP gave a positive opinion on the draft Council decision on the full application of the Schengen acquis in Croatia.
The Schengen area is the largest free-travel area in the world, with currently 22 EU countries participating, as well as 4 associated non-EU countries.
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