Bulgaria, Romania Join Schengen Area

Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe) and the European Travel Commission are celebrating the first stage of Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen Area as controls at air and sea borders have been lifted. This first step is set to bolster social cohesion and deepen European integration.

The European Union’s passport-free travel space is one of the most tangible achievements of European integration for its citizens. The Schengen Zone facilitates free movement between 27 countries, including 23 E.U. Member States. Removing barriers to travel between countries within the zone has created a more seamless travel experience with shorter queues and less administrative burden. This is particularly crucial given the importance of intra-European travel for European airports and destinations.

Integrating Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen Zone by air and sea is a key step forward for improving connectivity to the two countries. This will level the travel and tourism playing field, allowing travelers to move between Bulgaria, Romania and other Schengen Zone countries without undergoing passport or customs checks.

Airports and air travel will act as key drivers of closer integration between the newly minted Schengen countries and the wider community. Bulgaria and Romania have still considerably lower propensity to fly compared to the E.U. average (E.U.: 1.69; Bulgaria: 0.87; Romania: 0.60), pointing to a large untapped potential for air traffic growth. Both countries have also been at the forefront of the industry’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, posting dynamic growth well above pre-pandemic volumes (January 2024 vs. January 2019: E.U., -3 percent; Bulgaria, +7 percent; Romania, +4.3 percent). Joining Schengen will give them a further boost, while also driving the EU-wide air travel recovery.

For more information, visit www.etc-corporate.org.

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