The measure needs to get the unanimous approval of EU member countries.
The European Commission today recommended that Croatia be included in the EU’s Schengen border-free travel area.
The European Parliament still has to be consulted, and the measure needs to get the unanimous approval of EU member countries.
The Commission’s assessment is the result of an “almost four-years long diligent monitoring and evaluation process, during which Croatia made continuous progress and efforts to fulfil the requirements for joining the Schengen area of free movement,” Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters during a press briefing.
Slovenia, which has been at loggerheads with Croatia over a border dispute, expressed “regret that the European Commission decided on such an important issue just before the end of its mandate and made a political decision.”
In 2017, an arbitration court found in favor of Slovenia in the dispute but Croatia has refused to implement the judgment, arguing the process was unfair.
The Slovenian prime minister’s office said it “expects that in future Croatia will fulfil all the necessary conditions, both technical and legal, including respect for the rule of law, in order to enter into the Schengen area.”
Croatia, which joined the EU in 2013, announced it was ready to become a member of the Schengen area in March 2015. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker confirmed his support for the move in his 2017 State of the Union address.
“This is an area that comes with freedoms and privileges, but also with great responsibilities,” Avramopoulos said, adding that “joining this club is not something that we take lightly.”
The Commission determined that Croatia has taken all necessary measures to apply Schengen rules, including on external border management — the missing link until now.
“Croatia will need to continue working consistently on ongoing actions in the field of external border management to ensure that these conditions continue to be met,” Avramopoulos said.
The Schengen zone, which currently comprises 22 EU member countries as well as Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, is “one of the biggest, if not the greatest, achievement of European integration,” according to the commissioner.