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Schengen: Bulgaria and Romania likely to be denied membership

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Europe’s passport-free travel zone looks set to welcome Croatia but bar Romania and Bulgaria. 

EU countries will today vote on whether or not to admit the three nations to the so-called Schengen zone – a pact between countries to abolish border checks for those travelling between their territories.

Croatia is likely to receive unanimous support from the 26 Schengen member states. 

However, Austria is likely to block Romania and Bulgaria, citing a lack of preparedness. 

“We need more time,” Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said earlier this week.

“At the moment, we have 75,000 unregistered illegal migrants in Austria – meaning they have crossed an external EU border and made it to Austria. This needs to be solved first.”

Croatia will also start using the euro from January 2023. Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning a trip to the country next year.

Do you need a passport to enter Croatia, Romania, and Bulgaria?

Croatia has been part of the European Union since 2013, and Romania and Bulgaria since 2007, but they are not currently in the Schengen zone.

This means that a passport or identity card is still required to enter these countries even when arriving from a country in the Schengen area.

But Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria are all “ready” to join the borderless Schengen zone, the European Commission has said.

In November, the European Parliament voted in favour of removing the remaining border controls between Croatia and the Schengen Zone.

The final decision now lies with the EU Council whose members are the EU’s 27 heads of government.

“Croatia’s place is in Schengen. Criteria have been met. The European Parliament has given its green light. Now the EU Council must deliver,” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola wrote in a tweet.

From January 1, 2023, Croatia looks set to lift its border controls with other Schengen countries.

However, Romania and Bulgaria are unlikely to be admitted due to Austria withholding support.

Romania and Bulgaria have been waiting over a decade to be granted accession after completing the Schengen evaluation process in 2011.

When will Romania and Bulgaria be considered for the Schengen zone?

Romania and Bulgaria have been waiting over a decade for confirmation. 

“The wait has been long, I should say, too long. Expectations are high, rightly so, from authorities but not at least citizens,” Ylva Johansson, the EU’s home affairs commissioner, said on Wednesday. 

A positive vote will mean Croatia’s border controls with Schengen countries on land and sea will be abolished from January 1, 2023. Controls at airports will be lifted from March 26.

However, an anonymous EU diplomat was not optimistic about the chances of nearby Romania and Bulgaria.

“Croatia can expect a positive decision but Romania, and especially Buglaria will not be able to join Schengen yet,” they said.

“They will be left out for at least another half-a-year to a year before we can revisit the issue.”

What currency does Croatia use?

At the moment, visitors to Croatia need to exchange their money as the country will continue to use its own currency, the kuna, until January next year. Currently, one Croatian kuna is worth around €0.13.

From next year, however, Croatia will begin using the euro. The country joins 19 other countries in the bloc that use the currency.

The eastern European nation is hoping this will bring greater financial security to its citizens and raise the standard of living. 

It should help rein in soaring inflation, which also means travellers can expect fewer dramatic fluctuations in prices.

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