Still, political obstacles could delay the final decision.
Four years after entering the European Union, Croatia is still waiting to join the Schengen Area and the Eurozone. Due to the recent economic crisis, many are reluctant to support the introduction of a single currency, so the issue is only occasionally mentioned in the media. However, Croatia’s entry into Schengen is certainly a priority for both Croatia and the European Union, reports Jutarnji List on 19 July 2017.
Croatia has been an EU member for more than four years, but nobody in Brussels is yet ready to discuss any possible deadlines for entry into the Schengen Area. For comparison, Slovenia entered Schengen just three and a half years after it became an EU member.
The geographic position of Croatia makes entry into the Schengen a sensitive issue. Croatia has the longest external borders in the whole of the European Union. However, the border is with countries whose citizens do not need a visa for travel to the Union. They are either in EU membership negotiations, such as Montenegro and Serbia or are awaiting candidate status, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Croatia has already applied Schengen rules on its external borders. By entering Schengen, it would only abolish controls at the border crossings with Slovenia and Hungary, as well as control of passports for passengers in airports and seaports for planes and ships coming from the Schengen Area. This would significantly free up Croatian police resources that could be used for stronger external border control.
The entry into the Schengen Area is the best and perhaps the only way to resolve the issue of long waiting times at Croatian border crossings with Slovenia and Hungary. Although an agreement has been reached with Slovenia, with the help of the European Commission, on how to solve problems in case of excessively long lines, such arrangements are more an exception rather a rule. The complete suspension of checks for all the passengers at these border crossings will be possible only when Croatia formally enters the Schengen.
The process of Croatia’s entry into Schengen is proceeding, and a significant step forward was made earlier this year with gaining access to the Schengen Information System (SIS). Croatia has made substantial progress in meeting the criteria, and the European Commission could confirm Croatia’s readiness for entry into Schengen before the end of this year. After that, the formal entry becomes a political issue, as evidenced by the examples of Bulgaria and Romania, which are not yet members of Schengen, although, as confirmed by the European Commission five years ago, they have long met all the necessary conditions. There is no consensus on the issue in the Council of the European Union because the Netherlands, Germany and France do not support it.
It is believed that Croatia is in a somewhat better position than these two countries. If there are no political obstacles, particularly by Slovenia, Croatia could become a member of the Schengen Area as early as next year. Although it may have political motives to prevent it, Slovenia should understand that Croatia’s entry into Schengen is in its best interest as well, because that would move the external Schengen border further south.