BRUSSELS - The European Commission called on Wednesday for Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania to be admitted to the Schengen area to allow travel between these countries and most of Europe without border controls.
The EU executive asked the European Council, the grouping of the European Union's 27 members, to take the necessary decisions to admit the three eastern European countries to the 26-member Schengen area that stretches from Iceland to Greece.
Bulgaria and Romania completed the evaluation process in 2011, but the Council has held off lifting internal borders for more than 11 years.
The Council confirmed in December 2021 that Croatia, which became an EU member in 2013, had fulfilled the conditions to join the Schengen area.
EU governments are expected to vote on the participation of the three candidates at a meeting of national ministers on Dec. 8. Some countries have expressed concerns about the entrants' record on fighting organised crime and dealing with migration.
The Schengen area consists of all other EU countries except Cyprus and Ireland, along with non-EU members Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
The three potential new entrants have been required to show they have robust controls and surveillance of their borders with non-Schengen members, that they prioritise fighting cross-border crime, can share information and have systems in place for asylum seekers.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Alex Richardson)