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Croatia has acquired the go-ahead to hitch Europe’s Schengen passport-free journey zone in January in a long-awaited determination that leaves out Bulgaria and Romania.

The choice got here on December 8 throughout a gathering in Brussels of inside and justice ministers of EU and Schengen states and was heartily welcomed by Croatia however greeted unhappily by Bulgaria and Romania.

“The Schengen space is rising for the primary time in additional than a decade,” tweeted the Czech Republic, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency. “Ministers accepted Croatia’s membership as of 1 January 2023!”

Croatia’s delegation to the EU additionally responded enthusiastically.

“Final step accomplished! Council determination adopted — It’s now formally confirmed that #Croatia joins #Schengen space as of 1 January 2023,” it mentioned on Twitter.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic wrote on Fb that, with the open borders, Croatia “has fulfilled the strategic objectives of the federal government” and that “residents and the economic system can have the largest profit.”

Deputy Prime Minister Davor Bozinovic mentioned Croatia met all of the situations in a protracted and demanding course of.

“With Croatia in Schengen, everybody advantages — the residents, the economic system, Croatia and the EU,” he mentioned.

Twenty-six nations — 22 EU states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland — at the moment comprise the
Schengen space. Croatia will develop into its twenty seventh nation and the primary to hitch because the space was expanded in 2011 to confess Liechtenstein.

The EU mentioned Schengen is the most important free-travel space on the earth. Inside it there are 1.25 billion journeys yearly and three.5 million border crossings each day, it mentioned.

The transfer required unanimous assist from the 27 EU members. Croatia’s bid acquired no notable opposition, whereas the membership of Romania and Bulgaria was opposed by Austria and the Netherlands, citing corruption and migration issues as rising numbers of individuals cross its borders with out authorization through the Balkans area.

Austrian Inside Minister Gerhard Karner famous that greater than 100,000 individuals have entered Austria this 12 months with out authorization.

“It’s improper {that a} system that doesn’t work correctly in lots of locations would get expanded at this level,” he mentioned.

All through the bloc within the first 10 months of 2022, 281,000 irregular entries had been recorded, up 77 % from a 12 months earlier than and the best since 2016, Frontex, the EU’s border police, mentioned final month.

German International Minister Annalena Baerbock had urged Austria to vary its thoughts particularly at time when it’s “necessary that Europe strikes nearer collectively,” she mentioned in an announcement.

The Netherlands additionally opposed granting entry. The Dutch parliament in October adopted a decision saying additional evaluation of the functioning of the rule of legislation and the extent of corruption and arranged crime in Bulgaria and Romania was wanted.

Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca mentioned he was disenchanted and would reapply.

“We remorse and truthfully don’t perceive the rigid place taken by Austria,” he mentioned.

Honor Keleman, Romania’s deputy prime minister, nonetheless, was incensed by the consequence and vowed to “proceed to combat” to hitch Schengen “with out giving in to Austria’s depressing blackmail,” he wrote on Fb.

Bulgaria will even strive once more, its international minister mentioned.

Bulgarian Inside Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev was cautiously optimistic, saying he thought widespread floor could possibly be discovered to beat the objections of Austria and maybe the Netherlands.

“Austria already signaled that there are mechanisms, compromises that it is able to settle for. So, the talks will proceed,” he advised reporters.

European Commissioner for House Affairs Ylva Johansson mentioned Romania and Bulgaria should be full members of Schengen and have entry to free motion.

“I share the frustration with the residents of Bulgaria and Romania,” he mentioned.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and dpa

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