- The government of Croatia has confirmed the country met the 281 recommendations established by the European Union to soon join the region’s passport-free area.
- This is the most comprehensive evaluation ever to be made by any country to gain Schengen membership.
Croatia has met all of the requirements for applying all elements of the Schengen acquis, which is a prerequisite for entering the border-free travel zone.
The announcement was made by the EU Council in a press statement released on December 9, 2021. This indicates that the Council might decide to lift internal border controls.
Croatia is preparing to become the Schengen Area’s newest member. It is presently one of four EU countries that are not part of the border-free travel zone.
When it enters Schengen, the country is likely to gain from higher visitor numbers. Once internal border constraints are abolished, it will be easier to visit Croatia from other regions of the EU.
Furthermore, ETIAS will allow third-country nationals from a variety of nations to enter Croatia. The new visa-free travel authorization will be in effect by November 2023.
CROATIA PASSES SCHENGEN EVALUATION
Croatia was evaluated for Schengen membership between 2016 and 2020.
The European Commission stated in October 2019 that Croatia was qualified to enter the Schengen zone, the European Union’s (EU) passport-free travel zone.
During a meeting of EU interior ministers in March 2021, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson and the Portuguese Presidency will disclose the results of the review.
REQUIREMENTS FOR CROATIA TO BE READY FOR SCHENGEN AREA APPROVAL
Croatia has undergone the most thorough assessment for Schengen membership of any country to date. It has taken place:
- 281 recommendations in 8 areas of the Schengen acquis, including;
- 145 recommendations involving external border control.
Croatia has also conducted bilateral consultations with a number of Member States who have raised concerns about the country’s Schengen membership.
Davor Boinovi, Minister of the Interior, detailed the steps taken, and representatives from all Schengen countries accepted the evaluation to admit Croatia to the Schengen zone.
Commissioner Johansson said that Croatia is now prepared to join the Schengen Area.
CROATIA, THE EU AND SCHENGEN
The European Union (EU) and the Schengen Area are two different but connected ideas.
The European Union (EU) is a group of 27 countries that work together politically and economically. It follows specific regulations and values, like as its people’ right to live and work in other member countries.
The EU negotiates international trade treaties as a group and establishes human rights and other criteria that all members must follow.
The Schengen Area is a group of 26 European nations that do not impose border restrictions on travellers transiting across their borders.
Except for the Republic of Ireland, all EU members are required to join Schengen; nevertheless, several nations have failed to achieve the criteria on concerns such as border security.
There are four non-EU members who are also part of the Schengen Area.
This raises the following issues:
- Is Croatia in the EU?
- Is Croatia in the Schengen zone?
- Can Croatia join Schengen?
- When will Croatia become part of Schengen?
IS CROATIA IN THE EU?
Since July 1, 2013, Croatia has been a member of the European Union.
Croatia requested for EU membership in 2003, and the European Council approved it the following year. Border and immigration concerns, on the other hand, were a complication that hindered the process.
Slovenia prevented Croatia from joining due to long-standing border difficulties, notably the Piran Bay line. Slovenia later accepted the decision of United Nations arbitrators, which concluded the dispute.
The EU and Croatia negotiated until 2011, when the Treaty of Accession was signed. In January 2012, a referendum was held, and 66% voted in favour. Croatia joined the EU on July 1, 2013, ten years after its original application.
IS CROATIA PART OF SCHENGEN?
Croatia is now a member of the European Union but not of the Schengen Area.
However, it has now been established that the nation has cleared its review procedure and will soon join the zone of open borders.
WHEN WILL CROATIA JOIN THE SCHENGEN AREA?
Eight years after joining the EU, the Balkan country is preparing to enter the zone of free borders.
Croatia is expected to enter the Schengen Area by the second half of 2024, according to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovi.
However, European officials have not yet set a particular timeframe for Croatia to join the Schengen zone.
If Croatia is still not a complete Schengen member when the ETIAS travel authorization is launched, crossing the border into Croatia will still be required because the nation is in the advanced stages of membership.
Croatia is also one step closer to entering the Eurozone, which is required for the nation to become a Schengen member. The European Commission has determined that the country satisfies all of the conditions for adopting the euro, which is scheduled in January 2023.
WHAT DOES THE EUROPEAN GREENLIGHT MEAN FOR CROATIA?
With the EU’s support, Croatia has met the requirements to join the Schengen Area.
“Once Croatia becomes a full Schengen member, it will help to further strengthening the Schengen Area and guarantee that the EU’s external borders are better safeguarded,” said Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos.
Some of the directives considered before approving Croatia for Schengen membership included actions to maintain standards in the following areas:
- Data protection
- Common visa policy
- Police cooperation
- Judicial cooperation in criminal matters
SOME HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON CROATIA-EU RELATIONSHIP
Croatia’s ambition to join the Schengen Area had garnered substantial backing from the European Union (EU).
Croatia has extensive borders with non-EU nations such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, making immigration control difficult.
Croatia will be on the frontlines if it joins the Schengen Area because the area only has one shared external boundary.
By November 2023, all external Schengen borders will have ETIAS infrastructure. Third-country visitors will need ETIAS clearance to cross the exterior border visa-free.
STRENGTHENING AND INVESTING IN BORDER SECURITY
The Ministry of the Interior stated that it has continued to spend in enhancing border police capability, including providing training and technological equipment.
Croatia has also been working hard to satisfy the other requirements, such as data privacy and weapons legislation.
Croatia has received more funds from the EU to help fortify its border. This looks to have paid off, as the country has been assessed and determined to fulfil Schengen requirements. Commissioner Avramopoulos pledged further financial assistance in the future.
Immigration from the Western Balkans into the Schengen Area is a major concern for border guards. Croatia’s border will constitute part of the region’s external border as a Schengen member. The significance of a complete unilateral strategy to migration is emphasised by both Croatian and EU authorities.