"The Council of the European Union has initiated the procedure for decision making on the admission of Croatia to the Schengen passport-free travel area, requesting an opinion from the European Parliament which is required for a final decision," state agency Hina said on Wednesday, citing "diplomatic sources."
“The opinion of the European Parliament is not binding on the Council, but constitutes a procedural step that cannot be avoided,” Hina explained.
Joining Schengen means that border controls on land crossings with other members of the Schengen area would be scrapped, and that airports would separate travelers going to and from Schengen destinations for streamlined boarding. The EU Council’s recommendation suggested that, if approved, overland and seaport border controls might be scrapped on 1 January 2023, with airports adopting new rules on 26 March 2023.
This means that controls on Croatia’s borders with Slovenia and Hungary – which make up 948 kilometers or more than 40 percent of its entire land borders – would be scrapped. Controls would remain on Croatia’s border with Bosnia, Serbia, and Montenegro as this border line would thus become the external border of the Schengen Area.
The decision to initiate the procedure was made on Wednesday at a meeting of the Committee of Representatives, which consists of the ambassadors of EU countries. The draft Council Decision was sent to the European Parliament together with a letter to Parliament President Roberta Metsola.
After the European Parliament receives the letter, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs will appoint a rapporteur to prepare a draft opinion, which will first be discussed by the Committee. After it is adopted by the Committee, it will be sent for further adoption at a plenary session of Parliament.
It is expected that the European Parliament will vote on a final opinion at one of the two plenary sessions scheduled for October. That will pave the way for a final decision that requires the consensus of 22 EU countries which are members of the passport-free Schengen travel area.
The Schengen area currently consists of 26 European countries, four of which are not EU members and have no voting rights – Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The Council decision might also be adopted in October. On the other hand, four EU countries are obliged to join Schengen at some point – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Poland. Ireland’s EU membership has an opt-out from Schengen.
Should there be no unforeseen obstacles, in the tenth year of its EU membership Croatia would simultaneously join the Schengen area and the euro zone, the two closest integration associations at the core of the European Union.