Which Country Will Join Schengen in 2024

Multiple hands of diverse ethnicities holding up European Union flags on small sticks against a white background.

The Schengen Area represents one of the most significant achievements in European integration, facilitating the free movement of people across national borders without the need for passport checks.

Recently, this zone of free movement expanded slightly with the partial inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria, an integration process marked by over a decade of evaluations and preparations. 

This article explores potential candidates for Schengen membership in 2024, assessing their readiness and the broader implications of their inclusion.

As nations strive for seamless border transitions, the implications of expanding this area are significant not only for member states but also for the European Union’s external relations and internal security protocols. 

Background Information

Membership in the Schengen Area requires adherence to a stringent set of criteria that ensure the candidate country is prepared for the elimination of border controls.

These criteria include robust border management, a well-functioning visa system, and adherence to the Schengen acquis, which encompasses data protection, police cooperation, and respect for fundamental rights. 

The Schengen Area, established in 1985 and implemented in 1995, has gradually expanded to include 26 European countries, fostering easier travel and economic exchange but also facing challenges such as migration management and security coordination. 

As countries seek entry into this zone, they must demonstrate not only the capability to manage their borders but also the ability to integrate into a complex system of security and information sharing that binds the area.

This continuous expansion has prompted ongoing debates about the balance between freedom of movement and the security of external borders, reflecting the evolving political and security landscape of Europe.

Recent Developments

Partial Integration of Romania and Bulgaria

The decision to allow partial Schengen integration highlights the European Union’s strategic flexibility in expanding its border-free zone.

By adapting membership requirements to accommodate unique national circumstances, the EU can maintain stringent security standards while fostering greater integration. 

For Romania and Bulgaria, this achievement not only signifies a step closer to full Schengen inclusion but also enhances their geopolitical stance within Europe.

As they continue to work towards meeting the complete criteria, their progress serves as a beacon for other candidate countries, illustrating the tangible benefits of sustained compliance and reform.

Challenges Overcome

The path to this achievement has not been straightforward. Romania and Bulgaria have undergone thirteen years of rigorous scrutiny regarding their border security and visa management systems.

These evaluations aimed to ensure that both nations fully complied with Schengen standards, focusing on areas such as law enforcement cooperation, data sharing, and the protection of fundamental rights within their jurisdictions. 

The process involved multiple assessments by Schengen evaluators, who periodically reviewed progress and identified areas requiring further improvement.

These continuous efforts underscored the commitment of both countries to uphold the high standards required for Schengen membership, despite facing significant political and logistical hurdles along the way.

Setting a Precedent

This partial admission highlights a critical pathway for prospective Schengen members, illustrating that although the journey may be protracted, adherence to stringent EU norms and continuous improvements in security and policy frameworks are quintessential. 

The example of Romania and Bulgaria serves as a beacon for countries like Croatia and others in the Balkans, which are navigating similar hurdles.

Their success can potentially inspire and expedite the integration processes for these nations, thereby enriching the cohesion and operational synergy within the Schengen Area.

This development reaffirms the EU’s commitment to expansion based on merit and preparedness, ensuring a stronger, unified Europe.

Candidates for 2024

Exploring the likely candidates for Schengen Area membership in 2024, we assess their readiness and the challenges they face.

Potential Entrants

As the European Union looks toward the future of the Schengen Area, several candidates stand out for potential inclusion in 2024. Croatia, in particular, has made significant strides in aligning with EU regulations and standards.

Recent political stability and economic advancements position it as a prime candidate for Schengen membership. Similarly, other Balkan countries, motivated by the recent inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria, are intensifying their efforts to meet the required criteria.

Challenges and Advancements

Each candidate faces unique challenges. For instance, while Croatia benefits from a relatively stable political landscape, it must still enhance its border controls and data security measures to fully comply with Schengen requirements.

Other countries might struggle with bureaucratic inefficiencies or lack the necessary infrastructure to manage cross-border flows effectively. However, advancements in technology and increased EU support have enabled these nations to make significant progress toward integration.

Implications of Expansion

Economic and Security Impacts

The economic benefits of expanding the Schengen Area include not only streamlined logistics and decreased operational costs for businesses but also the potential for increased tourism and service exchange.

This expansion can lead to a more integrated and competitive market, providing a boost to economic growth across the region. 

On the security front, while open borders facilitate ease of movement for citizens, they also require advanced monitoring technologies and intelligence sharing to safeguard against threats.

The implementation of comprehensive security protocols and the efficient use of Schengen Information System (SIS) are essential to manage risks associated with easier cross-border travel, ensuring that the benefits of increased economic activity do not come at the expense of security.

Political Ramifications

The expansion of the Schengen Area introduces complexities in balancing national sovereignty with collective European goals. As borders open wider, the seamless integration demands more cohesive policies on immigration and law enforcement.

This could lead to significant shifts in political power dynamics within the EU, as smaller or newer member states gain equal footing in the borderless area. 

Moreover, the ability to manage and secure borders effectively without individual national oversight could become a contentious issue, potentially redefining the role of national governments in an increasingly integrated Europe.

These discussions will be pivotal in shaping the future political landscape of the EU.

Opposition and Challenges

While the expansion of the Schengen Area holds promise, it also faces significant opposition and challenges, rooted in political, economic, and social concerns.

Sources of Opposition

Opposition to Schengen expansion often stems from concerns over increased immigration and the perceived dilution of border security.

Economic disparities between countries can also fuel resistance, as wealthier nations may fear the burden of supporting weaker economies through shared borders. 

Additionally, cultural and identity concerns play a role, with some populations feeling that an influx of foreign nationals may undermine local traditions and societal norms.

Integration Hurdles

Specific challenges to the 2024 expansion include aligning disparate legal systems and ensuring all candidate countries can effectively implement Schengen’s stringent data protection and security protocols.

Political resistance from within certain EU countries, combined with logistical challenges in harmonizing systems across diverse political landscapes, could slow down or even stall the process. 

Moreover, the technological infrastructure required to manage and monitor cross-border movements must be robust and uniformly applied across all new member states, posing significant financial and administrative burdens.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does a country join the Schengen Area?

To join the Schengen Area, a country must fulfill rigorous conditions ensuring reliable border management, a consistent visa regime, and strict adherence to the comprehensive body of regulations known as the Schengen acquis, which covers areas such as judicial cooperation, police collaboration, and the Schengen Information System (SIS).

These requirements ensure the integrity and security of the area are maintained.

What are the benefits of joining the Schengen Area?

Joining the Schengen Area facilitates a substantial increase in tourism and trade efficiencies by removing internal borders, promoting economic growth, and strengthening social and cultural exchanges.

It offers citizens the privilege of traveling freely for work, study, or leisure, significantly reducing bureaucratic hurdles and fostering a sense of European unity.

Are there any drawbacks to joining the Schengen Area?

Joining the Schengen Area may lead to challenges such as managing heightened immigration flows, ensuring robust security across open borders, and addressing potential cultural and social concerns that arise from increased population mobility.

Additionally, member states may face financial and administrative burdens associated with upgrading border infrastructure and harmonizing cross-border law enforcement efforts.


The potential expansion of the Schengen Area in 2024 presents both significant opportunities and formidable challenges. Successfully integrating new members hinges on meeting stringent criteria and overcoming diverse opposition rooted in political, economic, and social concerns. 

As countries like Croatia and others in the Balkans strive towards membership, the EU must carefully manage the balance between enhancing free movement and maintaining security and sovereignty.

The expansion process will not only test the resilience and adaptability of the EU’s policies but also shape the future of European integration, demonstrating the union’s commitment to unity and cooperation amidst complex global challenges.


  1. EuroNews – Detailed coverage on Romania and Bulgaria’s partial Schengen Area inclusion: Romania and Bulgaria Join Schengen Area
  2. European Commission – Official information on Schengen criteria and regulations: Schengen Borders Code
  3. EU Observer – Analysis of potential candidates for Schengen expansion and political impacts: Schengen Expansion Analysis 
  4. Schengen Visa Information: For comprehensive details on the Schengen Visa, its requirements, and application process, visit Schengen Visa. This resource provides up-to-date information beneficial for potential applicants and those interested in the intricacies of Schengen Area policies.

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