The Schengen Area is composed of 26 European states with a shared visa policy that has abolished internal borders and adopted shared passport and border controls on their external frontiers. European Union member states are required to take part in the Schengen Area by law. However, before joining the other Schengen countries, each state must meet the requirements for a common standard in four areas: air borders, visas, police cooperation, and personal data protection. Romania joined the EU in 2007 and at the time committed to adopting both the Euro currency and the Schengen Area policy, but now it seems that a Schengen Romania is much closer to becoming a reality.
When will Romania join Schengen?
The Schengen Area is currently comprised of four non-EU states and the majority of European Union countries except for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania, and the United Kingdom. However, Croatia is hoping to join Schengen in a near future and it now seems that both Bulgaria and Romania will join Schengen in 2021 at the earliest.
It was first confirmed in February 2018 that a Schengen Romania could happen within the next year when Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila revealed that European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker had promised her as much.
Juncker believed that the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) imposed on Romania would be lifted by January 1st, 2019. This was the safeguarding mechanism to ensure that Romania met the outstanding requirements for Schengen entry, which involved making progress in local judicial reform, corruption and organised crime.
However, until now the country has not joined the Schengen Area. Dancila insisted that all the technical requirements for membership had been met and that the delay in Romania joining Schengen was political, with several other members remaining opposed to its entry to the area. Juncker then promised to talk to the resistant states in an attempt to change their mind about Romania Schengen entry.
Then, in November 2018, European Parliament president Antonio Tajani called for an acceleration in Romania’s accession to Schengen while meeting with Dancila in Bucharest. Stating his confidence in Romania’s cooperation in supporting upcoming European Parliament initiatives, Tajani said it was important for Romania to join Schengen as soon as possible in order to further secure European borders and improve security.
More recently, in late May 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, Romanian MEP Dacian Ciolos posted a video on his social media that showed the restrictions he faced while travelling from Bucharest to Brussels due to the emergency travel restrictions in the Schengen Zone. “What has been happening over the last two months for all EU citizens, has been happening for the citizens of Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia for the last 12 years, 13 years“, referring to the fact these countries are not part of the Schengen area.
The Romania Schengen ETIAS
When Romania joins Schengen, it will form a part of the shared visa program for the area. This means that eligible foreign citizens approved for a Schengen visa for Romania will also be able to move freely within the Schengen Area countries.
There are currently 60 nationalities eligible to enter the Schengen area visa-free for short visits for business or tourism, but by the end of 2022 when the new ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) online visa waiver program comes into effect, the current visa-free countries will need to apply for this special travel permit, which is not a visa but a visa waiver.
After this point, eligible citizens wishing to enjoy a business or touristic stay in Romania and Schengen will have to pre-register with the ETIAS online application before travelling. The ETIAS for Romania will allow a stay of 90 days within a 180-day period in any Schengen country, with a total validity of 3 years or until the corresponding passport expires.
The ETIAS system is being implemented to further strengthen the borders of the Schengen Area against a rise in terrorism and other security threats. This means that the Romanian ETIAS application will involve answering a series of health and security questions in order to pre-screen any public safety risks before the traveller arrives in Europe.
Once it is determined that Romania meets the Schengen requirements for judicial reform and the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) is lifted, the European Commission will begin including Romania in their plans to implement the ETIAS for Schengen by the end of 2022.