Croatia will join the unrestricted movement arrangement from January 1 becoming the third country to join the borderless Schengen zone after Greece and Slovenia.
However, an EU official confirmed the bids from Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen Area have been blocked.
Croatia will join the Schengen Area at the start of 2023, the European Union confirmed on Thursday, following a vote on whether to admit more countries.
"The Schengen Area is growing for the first time in more than a decade," the Czech Republic, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, said on Twitter. "Ministers approved Croatia's membership as of 1 January 2023!"
Ministers from the 27 EU member states have been voting on expanding the Schengen visa-free zone to include members Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia.
To the citizens of Croatia: welcome, congratulations!” said the European commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson.
“To the citizens of Romania and Bulgaria: you deserve to be full members of Schengen, to have access to the free movement … I share the disappointment with the citizens of Bulgaria and Romania.”Romania’s prime minister, Nicolae Ciucă, said he was disappointed and would apply to enter the zone again.
“We regret and honestly do not understand the inflexible position taken by Austria,” he said. Bulgaria said it would also try again.Austria’s interior minister, Gerhard Karner, said he had opposed Romania and Bulgaria’s applications because of security concerns.
“It is wrong that a system that does not work properly in many places would get expanded at this point,” he said.Karner said Austria had recorded 100,000 illegal border crossings so far this year, including 75,000 people who had not previously been registered in other Schengen countries as they should have been.
Accession needs unanimous backing from all members – 22 EU nations as well as Lichtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. The Netherlands also opposed granting access to Bulgaria, citing concerns over corruption and migration.