Currently, the Schengen Area is made up of 22 EU member states and 4 non-member states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. Although it joined the European Union in 2013, Croatia is yet to join the Schengen Area for visa-free travel within Europe.
However, recent developments have suggested that Croatia may enter Schengen in 2020 as the country has launched a new campaign to join, with the backing of Finland. This means that Croatia may become one of the countries for which the new ETIAS authorization for Schengen is valid, as it is due to be introduced by 2022.
Why isn’t Croatia in Schengen?
When Croatia joined the European Union on 1st July 2013, one condition was that it would eventually join the Schengen passport-free zone. To join the Schengen Area, Croatia had to first meet all the technical criteria for entry. In 2015, the EU began a year-and-a-half-long technical evaluation for Croatia to join Schengen.
However, full membership of Schengen for Croatia was not granted, although the evaluation was positive and Croatia was allowed to join the Schengen Information System (SIS). The various roadblocks have so far included a lack of consensus among EU members regarding accession criteria, political issues like the European migrant crisis and a border dispute with Slovenia.
Hungary disputed the 2015 bid because Croatia had allowed migrants to pass its border into the country. A previous Croatia Schengen bid in 2009 was blocked by Slovenia, who has a long-standing border dispute with Croatia dating back to the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991, with Slovenia threatening to block any subsequent bids for the same reason.
The main issue remains the security of Croatia’s external borders, with many EU members still remaining unconvinced. Croatia would be a key entry point to Schengen because of its long coastline along the Adriatic Sea and numerous borders shared with non-EU countries.
An ongoing problem is the influx of migrants from Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries who cross into Croatia from neighbouring countries and then into the rest of the EU.
However, Croatia is committed to improving its border controls, has already established new security measures for its border with Serbia and is working on finalizing new controls for the border with Bosnia.
How can Croatia join Schengen?
Croatia launched another bid to join the Schengen Area visa-free zone. Approval depends on the country meeting all the technical criteria for entry, which Croatia hopes to achieve by the end of the year. This time it was approved and endorsed by the EU commission. This is yet to be ratified by member nations.
However, the new bid has strong support from other member states, who believe that Croatia Schengen membership would help to improve security in Croatia and the EU as a whole.
Croatia’s strongest supporter for Schengen membership is Finland, with whom it has forged a friendly relationship within the EU. In September 2018, Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini formally pledged Finland’s backing to Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković once the technical requirements have been met.
If the countries entry into Schengen happens in 2020, then it’s very likely that the ETIAS system for Croatia could be implemented by the end of 2022.
The Schengen ETIAS for Croatia
The new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is expected to come into effect at the end of 2022, meaning Croatia will be eligible for the ETIAS system if joining Schengen in 2020.
The ETIAS visa waiver is being implemented to strengthen border security within the Schengen Area and will be valid for a 90-day stay for tourism or business in any Schengen country, with a total validity of 3 years to travel to the area.
To get the ETIAS for Croatia, visa-exempt passport holders will need to pre-register an ETIAS Online Application before travelling to the Schengen Area.
The information provided on the Croatia ETIAS will be pre-screened against European information databases, such as SIS and Interpol. This will allow any travellers perceived as security or public health risks to be identified before entering Schengen.
As it will help to strengthen European borders and ensure safer travel, Croatia joining Schengen and the implementation of the ETIAS Croatia is really in the best interests of all citizens of Europe.