Croatia, a member state of the European Union since 2013, has taken a key step towards entering the Schengen area through an agreement on Thursday in the Council, an institution representing the member states, informs AFP.
Croatia has “fulfilled the necessary conditions for the implementation of all parts of the Schengen acquis” is the conclusion of a Council statement.
In order for the Balkan country to join the other 26 members of the Schengen area, the Council also has to decide unanimously on “authorizing the lifting of internal border controls”.
Slovenian Interior Minister Ales Hojs, whose country holds the six-month presidency of the EU Council, welcomed the “first step”.
“It will benefit especially the citizens of Slovenia and Croatia because the border between our countries will cease to exist,” he said in a press conference, informs Agerpres.ro.
In October 2019, the European Commission considered that the Croatian authorities had taken the necessary steps to join Schengen, taking stock of the evaluations carried out since 2016.
The Schengen area, one of the European Union’s most concrete achievements, is an area where you can travel without a passport and where border controls have been abolished in principle. It brings together 26 countries, 22 Member States plus four Associated States: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Apart from Croatia, the other non-Schengen EU Member States are Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and Ireland.
The elimination of internal borders has resulted in the consolidation of the external borders of the Schengen area. Member States located at its borders are therefore responsible for organizing strict controls at these borders and issuing short-stay visas, where appropriate.
Schengen accession also involves participation in police cooperation to combat organized crime or terrorism, in particular through data sharing, such as in the Schengen Information System (SIS).
Although internal borders should only exist on paper in the Schengen area, many Member States have reintroduced border controls for reasons of counter-terrorism or recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic.