Photo credits @ Twitter/CustomsBulgaria

Reduce lorry queues at borders by allowing Romania and Bulgaria to join Schengen, say MEPs

The European Parliament's Petitions Committee is urging the Council to take action to tackle long delays for heavy goods vehicles at internal borders by granting Romania and Bulgaria full Schengen membership and adopting specific legislation, MEPs argue.

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In a motion for a resolution adopted unanimously with 25 votes in favour, MEPs of the Petitions Committee call for EU action to tackle long waiting times for heavy goods vehicles at EU borders and urge the Council to decide on full Schengen membership for Romania and Bulgaria quickly.

MEPs point out that various factors including insufficient technical capacity, staff shortages, and time-consuming checks on freight, hundreds of goods vehicles are held up every day at the EU’s internal borders, including the borders between Schengen and non-Schengen EU Member States, where vehicles face extremely long wait times and delays. MEPs note also that lengthy queues of goods vehicles on the EU’s external borders with Western Balkans countries are particularly problematic.

This accumulation of heavy goods vehicles at borders may have a detrimental impact on drivers’ health and working conditions, road safety and the functioning of the EU single market, argue MEPs. They also note the impact on the health of European citizens through air, water and noise pollution.

MEPs note that the Council decided on 30 December 2023 to lift the air and maritime border controls between the Schengen area and Romania and Bulgaria. However, the decision falls short of addressing the biggest and most pressing issue, land border crossings, where checks remain on the Schengen land border. Therefore, MEPs reiterate their support for the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area. Specifically, the Council should adopt as quickly as possible, and by no later than mid-2024, a decision on the full application of the Schengen acquis in Romania and Bulgaria, argue MEPs.

To address the issues at borders, MEPs would like to see binding EU legislative measures for an EU-wide standard of one minute on average for handling heavy goods vehicles at intra-EU border crossing points; legislation to allow truck drivers to use smaller border crossings when main arteries are closed for road maintenance, to avoid drivers depending on arbitrary actions by individual countries; and further efforts from EU countries to reinforce cross-border cooperation on combating theft from goods vehicles.

The resolution is expected to be presented at a forthcoming plenary session of the European Parliament.