In addition to joining the eurozone, Croatia started the new 2023 also as a member of the Schengen zone.
With full membership in the European Union in 2013, Croatia has already accepted the entire Schengen legal acquis, but only by joining the Schengen area will controls on the movement of people across the internal borders of the European Union be removed. Croatia will thus abolish border controls towards Slovenia and Hungary on January 1, 2023, while airport controls towards Schengen destinations will be abolished at the beginning of the summer flight schedule, on March 26, 2023.
However, many Croatian citizens and employers are still not sure what exactly changes with the entry in Schengen, nor what are the advantages that made entry into Schengen Croatia’s political, as well as economic, priority.
The Schengen area was established in 1995, and it represents one of the foundations of European integrations, together with eurozone. With Croatia’s entry into Schengen, this area without internal borders will include 23 of the 27 member states of the European Union, while the other four members – Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and Ireland – are not yet Schengen members. On the other hand, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland are not members of the European Union, but participate in the Schengen Area. In practice, in many ways Schengen functions as a territory of one state, with traditional controls for those entering and leaving the area, but without internal border controls.
Ever since the establishment of Schengen, trade within Europe has grown, and numerous European companies have grown along with it. Schengen helps significantly in promoting trade integrations when it comes to trade in goods and services. As was clearly seen during the coronavirus pandemic, disruptions at internal borders have significantly affected European businesses, the circulation of goods, the provision of services and the mobility of people, including cross-border workers and those traveling to visit friends and families. Even labor mobility in the Schengen area has a positive effect on trade – by increasing the demand for foreign goods, improving awareness of more favorable producers from other countries, as well as by reducing the risks associated with buying and selling outside a particular country.
It is estimated that almost 1.7 million people currently live in one Schengen country and work in another, with approximately 3.5 million people crossing internal borders every day. Entry into Schengen enables the unhindered flow of people and goods, and the absence of border controls will significantly speed up and facilitate business for companies operating on the single market of the European Union. The European Commission has calculated that suspending the Schengen Agreement would lead to a loss of 5 to 18 billion euros per year.
It is estimated that Europeans annually perform 1.25 billion travels inside the Schengen area, which if great benefit for the tourism sector. Croatian citizens will be able to travel from Lisbon to Tallinn without border control, while tourists from markets important to us will be able to come to Croatia for vacation faster and easier. Most visitors come to Croatia from countries in the Schengen area, which means that Croatian tourism will gain new momentum with this.
Entry into Schengen will significantly affect Croatian citizens in the border areas with Slovenia and Hungary, especially those who work or study in these countries.
It is important to point out another dimension of Croatia’s entry into the Schengen area, which relates to human rights. Namely, Croatia was the first in the European Union to establish an independent mechanism for monitoring police activity towards migrants and asylum seekers at its external borders, aimed specifically at preserving their fundamental rights. Independent persons and institutions are included in the monitoring mechanism, while the umbrella body that issues annual reports includes European agencies, ombudsmen, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration.
Membership in Schengen definitely and individually makes every single European country participating in it a stronger trade partner, while each new Schengen component makes this unique area economically more significant. Therefore, the fact that Croatia’s entry into Schengen will give new freshness to this important joint project – both in Europe and globally – is not negligible.