European Commission recommends allowing Croatia to join Schengen area

European Commission recommends allowing Croatia to join Schengen area
The Croatia-Hungary border crossing at Letenye.
By bne IntelliNews October 23, 2019

The European Commission (EC) recommended that Croatia join Schengen after meeting the conditions to join the border-free area, the EC said in a statement on October 22. 

Croatia is the EU’s newest member, having joined n 2013, and has been trying for four years to enter the Schengen zone, which required Zagreb to demonstrate it could effectively manage the union’s external border. 

This has been an issue since the migrant crisis erupted in 2015, and Croatia remains on one of the routes into the EU, with migrants and refugees seeking to enter the country from Bosnia & Herzegovina. 

Entry to Schengen would mean that checks on its borders with fellow Schengen members Hungary and Slovenia would be removed, facilitating trade and encouraging tourism. 

According to the EC statement, Croatia has taken the measures needed to ensure that the necessary conditions for the full application of the Schengen rules and standards are met. However, it added, “Croatia will need to continue working on the implementation of all ongoing actions, in particular its management of the external borders, to ensure that these conditions continue to be met”. 

“I commend Croatia for its efforts and perseverance to meet all the necessary conditions to join Schengen. … I trust that member states will take the right steps for Croatia to become a full Schengen member soon,” said EC President Jean-Claude Juncker. 

“Schengen is one of the greatest and most tangible achievements of European integration. But its strength very much depends on its inclusiveness – now that Croatia has taken the measures to ensure that the necessary conditions are met, we must recognise this,” said Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos. “Once it becomes a full Schengen member, it will contribute to further strengthening the Schengen area and ensure that the EU's external borders are better protected.” 

However, Croatia could struggle to get the support of its neighbour Slovenia for its entry to the Schengen area. The two countries are still locked in a bitter dispute after Zagreb rejected a 2017 international arbitration ruling giving Slovenia access to the high seas through Piran Bay, saying that Ljubljana had corrupted the process. Days before the EC decision, a group of Slovenian MEPs sent a letter to EU leaders saying they doubted Croatia’s technical and legal capacity to protect the area.

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