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Black Sea coast, Bulgaria
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It’s now much, much easier to travel to these underrated European countries

Two emerging destinations are becoming members of the Schengen Area

Liv Kelly
Written by
Liv Kelly

It’s not just the food, history and city breaks that make Europe an unmatched travel destination – it’s also ridiculously easy to get around, thanks to the blessing that is the Schengen Area.

Established in 1985, the Schengen Area allows 27 member states to form an expansive visa-free zone, which makes border crossings super efficient. A staggering 3.5 million people within the region already cross an internal border each day, and now two more European countries are joining the party. 

Following Croatia’s accession early last year, Bulgaria and Romania became partial members on Sunday (March 31). It’s taken a while (both countries joined the EU back in 2007), but free access has just been granted to all those travelling by air or by sea.

However, some restrictions remain for those travelling by land, thanks to resistance from the member state of AustriaThough the country allowed Croatia full accession in 2022, it vetoed Romania and Bulgaria’s admission. 

‘Bulgaria and Romania have been fulfilling all criteria for joining the Schengen area for years – we are entitled to join with the terrestrial border as well,’ Siegfried Muresan, a Romanian member of the European Parliament, told the Associated Press. ‘[The partial membership] will offer additional arguments to the last EU member state that has been vetoing the full accession.’

Land border checks will remain in place in the two countries for now, largely because of concerns from Austria about illegal immigration. To mitigate those concerns, both countries have agreed to random security screenings at airports and maritime borders. European Parliament members are worried about long queues at the EU’s land borders, and the impact that might have on trade. 

However, Bulgaria’s full accession into Schengen should be complete by the end of the year. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described this news as a ‘huge success for both countries,’ according to VOA news, and there are hopes for positive impacts on their respective tourism sectors. 

And both places are well worth visiting. From lovely beaches to brilliant ski resorts (plus really, really cheap pints), they’re two of the most underrated destinations in Europe

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