Croatia tourism is happy about Croatia becoming a “Schengen” visa country in the EU. Croatia has met the technical criteria to join. But what does Schengen expansion mean for Europe, and can the EU overcome its border policy crisis triggered by the migrant influx that began in 2014?
In the meantime the French president said. “We must profoundly rethink our development policy and our migration policy, even if it is a Schengen with fewer states.” The French president doesn’t think Schengen still works.
Croatia would represent Schengen’s first territorial expansion in more than a decade when the accession of Switzerland was completed in 2008.
The Schengen zone currently comprises 22 of the EU’s 28 member states as well as four non-EU members: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. (Croatia, which joined the EU in 2013, is one of six members not in Schengen, alongside the UK, Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Cyprus.)
The zone’s external borders cover 50,000 kilometers, according to the European Parliament.
But with immigration still dominating politics, and the rise of populism, as well as the distraction of Brexit, many of the temporary measures have yet to be rolled back.
Hungary’s Viktor Orban has made huge political capital out of his new razor-wire-topped border fence with Serbia and aggressive rhetoric about defending Europe from migrants.
Six Schengen countries still apply internal border controls: France, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.
Border control is a major issue in Croatian membership of Schengen, not just because migrants continue to use the Balkans as a route towards western Europe, but because the former Yugoslav nation has 1,300 kilometers of border with non-EU countries.
Zagreb has had to convince Brussels that it will be able to effectively manage the EU’s external border, at precisely the time the frontier is under its greatest pressure since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Another problematic area is Pelješac, Croatia’s southern isthmus pointing towards Montenegro. It can only be reached via the mainland by crossing through a narrow corridor of Bosnian territory that was designed to grant Bosnia sea access. The double-crossing is already the cause of long traffic delays during the summer, and there are fears that could worsen with tighter border checks.
However, Croatia is expected to complete a vast bridge in 2021 that takes traffic over the Bosnian territory; the project has been delayed by Bosnian fears that it would impede big ships at its only open-sea access.
Schengen entry would remove border controls for the 11.6 million tourists (75% of total foreign visitors) annually to Croatia from Schengen-area countries, according to analysts IHS Markit.
It would also boost tourism from visitors to Europe, who are granted a visa valid for Schengen countries, by adding Croatia to their permitted itineraries.