Presently, 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 not part of the shared Euro currency of the Eurozone. Furthermore, Alongside 6 other European Union member states, 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 2021.
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, which many EU members are still unconvinced of. 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 flux of migrants from Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries who cross into Croatia from neighboring 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 has launched a new 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. Schengen membership for Croatia could be approved for 2020, as Croatia is hoping the European Commission will assess the application before the next elections for the European Parliament in May 2019.
Once all the technical criteria has been met, including improved border security, the Croatia Schengen application must be approved by the European Commission, as well as each EU member state. 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 a Schengen Croatia happens in 2020, then it’s very likely that the ETIAS system for Croatia could be implemented by 2021.
The Schengen ETIAS for Croatia
The new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is expected to come into effect by 2021, 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, many previously visa-exempt passport holders will need to pre-register an ETIAS Online Application before travel 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 travelers perceived as security or public health risks to be identified before entering Schengen.
As it will further 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.