Despite joining the EU 14 years ago, Bulgaria and Romania are still not part of the Schengen area. The wiki article has the following timeline:

On 1 August 2018, Bulgaria and Romania gained full access to the Schengen Information System. Moreover, "the final political decision whether the two countries can become part of the Schengen area and stop systematic border checks with neighbouring EU countries must be taken unanimously by all sides of the European Council." On 11 December 2018, the European Parliament voted for the resolution in favour of accepting both countries, requiring the Council of the European Union to "act swiftly" on the matter.

What is currently stalling the acceptance of these countries into the Schengen area? I'm interested in both official and informal reasons for the delay.

  • Related: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/25668/… (don't think its a dupe but feel free to vote if you think otherwise) Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 19:43
  • An obvious reason is the high influx of low-educated workers swarming to western nations like what happened when other less economically developed members had open borders.
    – A.bakker
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 20:20
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    @A.bakker that's already the case and has nothing to do with the Schengen area. All Romanian/Bulgarian citizens are free to work in any EU/EEA state without a visa since 2014 (2007 + 7 years for transition). Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 20:25
  • I suspect immigration may also be the elephant in the room, borderlands being used to keep unwanted immigrants from further away out of the EU. At the border between Slovenia and Croatia, the Slovenian side searches busses and trains for Bosnians trying to get into Schengen. Migrants and refugees from Asia try to cross the border hidden between cargo.
    – Ivana
    Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 8:21

3 Answers 3


Nothing has changed since Why are Romania's and Bulgaria's reasons for postponing entering the Schengen area considered non-technical? The process is complete and both countries are deemed ready on a technical level, the Parliament and Commission are still making noise from time to time (the last time was a month ago) and the lack of action from the Council ensures nothing happens.

As far as I know, the topic hasn't made it to the official agenda for a Council meeting (i.e. no country is pushing too hard or insisting on forcing other member states to take a stance), it's just being quietly ignored. EU Observer suggests France switched position but Germany and the Netherlands are still opposed.

More generally, the Dublin system is dying, Schengen countries have been reintroducing checks unilaterally first out of the fear of migrants, then due to the pandemic, sometimes not even going through the motions of properly notifying the Commission. Some rules are only partially implemented, the Commission complains about it but lacks leverage and hasn't gone further than this (no infringement proceedings).

Speculating a bit, it therefore seems there is no appetite to confront all the issues faced by the Schengen system, it's much easier to live with the status quo without picking up a fight on this topic (and possibly face a domestic backlash).


The short answer is: because some of the other member states are blocking their full integration.

Despite Bulgaria and Romania fulfilling the necessary criteria and repeated calls from the European Parliament to let them join, the Schengen area has not been expanded to these two countries yet as EU national governments must unanimously decide to allow new states to enter the border-free zone.

Source: European Parliament

I could not find which countries are against it. According to the Bulgarian version of this page, both countries have completed the necessary criteria in 2011. According to this article, recently the European Commissioner for Home Affairs Johansson has been calling to grant the full integration of both countries.


Probably not the main reason, but pretty much important for Bulgaria:

Bulgarian government has hard times retaining the people (i.e. workforce) in Bulgaria. People are lost to EU countries with better economy, better security, better education and better medical services.

Schengen area membership can only make things worse in regard to retaining people.

That's why the government silently sabotages any advance towards Schengen.

(The same happens for similar reasons in regard to Euro currency adoption.)

  • 8
    Sorry to copy over my comment yet again, but this is a fundamental misunderstanding: the Schengen area is only about border controls, it does not add any more freedoms to Bulgarian citizens. They are free to move to any EU/EEA state since 2014. It would add some benefit to foreigners living in Bulgaria but only in the sense that they could visit the Schengen area for tourism without a visa. Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 18:56
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    I know pretty much what is Schengen all about. I am Bulgarian citizen and I travel as much as I want in EU (well, provided there is no COVID crisis). For a lot of people, on the other hand, the border control is at least a psychological factor.
    – fraxinus
    Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 19:01
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    So they would be happy to move to, say, France, but don't go because they need to show their ID card at the airport? Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 19:01
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    Pretty much important, for a lot of them. Not really a factor when you are educated, fluent in foreign languages, have a reasonable income, etc, etc...
    – fraxinus
    Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 19:04
  • "That's why the government silently sabotages any advance towards Schengen" seem to be speculation lacking any further sources on this. Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 12:54

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