April 22. 2024. 5:44

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Danube crossings jammed as crossers mistake it for Schengen sea border

Traffic jams and border queues continue at the Danube border crossings because, although Romania and Bulgaria have joined the Schengen area for their air and sea borders, most border crossings on the Danube are still considered land borders and are subject to border controls.

As of 31 March, people arriving in Romania and Bulgaria from other Schengen countries by air or sea are no longer subject to checks by border authorities, while the land crossings still require document check. Checks will be the same at the other border points on the Danube, including between Romania and Bulgaria.

The Danube River, which forms nearly 470 kilometres of the Bulgarian-Romanian border, is not included in the agreement and is therefore considered a land border. Anyone arriving on a cruise ship, even from a Schengen country, is still checked.

“Following Romania’s accession to the Schengen area, passengers and crews of vessels transiting the Danube will continue to be checked until a decision is taken to lift external border controls,” Romanian coastguard spokesman Andrei Ene told Euractiv.

Passenger ships bound for the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta from Schengen countries on the Danube will be controlled, even if they are also travelling on the Black Sea to reach the passenger terminal in the port of Constanta.

When a passenger ship enters the Danube, it is checked by border guards, but at the destination, at the passenger terminal in the seaport of Constanta, there are no further checks because it is a Schengen border.

The partial integration of the two countries into the Schengen area maintains checks on boats travelling between Romania and Bulgaria on the Danube and makes the waiting time for goods lorries, passenger coaches and cars the same as before at Danube border crossings.

“People transiting the land border between Romania and Bulgaria will continue to be subject to border control”, Ene said.

There are daily queues of lorries and coaches between Romania and Bulgaria, and this will continue until the two countries join Schengen and their border posts are closed.

“The Next step is lifting checks also at internal land borders. Discussions in the Council will continue this year. And I promise: this is a priority for the end of my mandate,” Commissioner Ylva Johansson said on Sunday.

Since 2011, the European Commission has concluded that Romania and Bulgaria meet the requirements to be part of the Schengen area.

Austria has been opposed to this approach to the two Eastern European countries.

With Romania’s partial entry into the Schengen area, the first river passenger ship to arrive in the port of Constanta departed from Vienna, and the first plane to land in Romania’s capital also came from Vienna.

According to the Romanian Airports Association, around 25 million passengers arrived at airports nationwide in 2023, 17% higher than in 2022. On the other hand, the number of cruise tourists decreased in Romania due to the conflict situation in Ukraine and the sea mines that were found to be drifting.

(Ana-Maria Stancu | Euractiv.com)

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