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Croatia enters Europe’s passport-free Schengen Area

Croatia enters Europe's passport-free Schengen Area

Croatia enters Europe’s passport-free Schengen Area

ZAGREB, 1 Jan (Hina) – Croatia entered the Schengen area at Saturday midnight, thus joining another 26 states and 420 million people in the largest passport-free travel area in the world.

On 1 January 2023, Croatia became the 27th member of the Schengen area, after fewer than ten years of European Union membership.

Border controls at land and sea borders with other EU members have been lifted, and checks at air borders will be lifted from 26 March.

The Schengen area, which has expanded now for the first time after ten years, now comprises 23 out of the 27 EU member states, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Bulgaria and Romania are not part of the Schengen area as their admission was not given a go ahead by other members in early December, when approval was granted to Croatia.

Neither Cyprus nor Ireland are in this passport-free travel zone.

The Schengen area spans over 4 million square kilometres, and until now it has had a population of about 420 million, according to the website of the European Council.

“Every day around 3.5 million people cross internal borders for work or study or to visit families and friends, and almost 1.7 million people reside in one Schengen country while working in another”, it is said on the website.

“Europeans make an estimated 1.25 billion journeys within the Schengen area every year, which also greatly benefits the tourism and cultural sector.”

On its path to join the Schengen area, Croatia met 281 recommendations in the eight areas of the Schengen acquis, undergoing the most comprehensive and detailed evaluation yet.

The Schengen area, considered to be one of the greatest achievements of the EU, started in 1985 between five member states — France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

It was named after a small village in Luxembourg, on the border with Germany and France, where the Schengen Agreement and Convention were signed.

European Commission welcomes Croatia’s historic success

The European Commission president and several commissioners on Friday welcomed Croatia’s simultaneous accession to the Schengen passport-free travel area and the euro area on 1 January 2023 as a great achievement for both Croatia and the European Union.

The Commission issued a statement on Friday describing Croatia’s journey towards membership of the two areas.

“I warmly welcome Croatia in the euro and in the Schengen free travel area. From this Sunday, citizens driving to and from Croatia can start traveling without internal border controls,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

“This is a major achievement for Croatia, a symbol of its deep-rooted attachment to the EU, and a symbolic moment for the euro area as a whole. This is a proud moment for the EU, Croatia and its citizens,” she added.

Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said that “this is an important step for Croatia to mark its full European integration, and important for the entire European Union,” while Vice-President Margaritis Schinas added: “This is a milestone in Croatia’s European path and a fully deserved one. My heartfelt congratulations to all Croatians!”

Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni said that “this New Year will be an unforgettable one for the Croatian people.”

“What a historic milestone both for Croatia and for the European Union as a whole! Perhaps no EU Member State has made such an incredible journey over the past three decades: from the horrors of war in the 1990s, to EU membership in 2013 and now set to enjoy two of the most tangible benefits of EU integration,” Gentiloni said.

Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, noted that each new Schengen member makes the EU stronger. “I am proud of the work the Commission and Croatia have done together so that Croatians can benefit from this historic step forward. In that respect, I remain personally committed to both Romania and Bulgaria becoming members in the near future.”

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