Croatia joins Schengen Area, barrier at Bregana border crossing raised

Photo /Vijesti/2023/Siječanj/01 siječnja/HN20230101860320.jpg

Croatia at midnight marked its accession to the Schengen Area by symbolically taking off the sign at the Bregana border crossing, raising the barrier and with green lights for free passage at the former border checkpoint.

"We have opened the door to a border-free Europe," Interior Minister Davor Božinović said at the Bregana border crossing.

Tonight, he said, we celebrate a new day, the new year, a new Europe with Croatia in the Schengen Area.

With the start of 2023, Croatia has become a new member of the Schengen Area, the largest area of free movement of persons and goods in the world, which includes all members of the European Union, apart from Bulgaria and Romania, Cyprus and the Republic of Ireland. Four countries that are not EU members: Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are part of the Schengen Area.

On the occasion, ceremonies were held at numerous border crossing points on the borders with Slovenia and with Hungary, including at one of the largest border crossing points on the Croatia-Slovenia border, Bregana-Obrežje.

Interior Minister Davor Božinović was a host to Slovenian Public Administration Minister Sanja Ajanović Hovnik, while Croatian police director Nikola Milina was joined by acting director general of the Slovenian police, Boštjan Lindav.

Minister Božinović said that tonight's act was more than the lifting of border checks: it is the final affirmation of our European identity, which generations of Croats had fought for and in the end achieved.

He thanked the Slovenian minister and delegation for sharing with them tonight the moments of our joy and pride and wished everyone a happy new year in the Schengen Area.

The Slovenian minister said this was a historic moment.

Just as about 30 years ago we symbolically set borders, now we are removing them. That doesn't mean that security will decrease because in both countries we had thoroughly prepared for this moment, said Ajanović Hovnik.

After a short meeting between the ministers, exactly at midnight the barriers were simultaneously raised on both sides of the border, enabling free passage between the two neighbouring countries. The raising of the barrier on the Slovenian side was shown on a video wall.

Five minutes before midnight, police officers at Bregana conducted the last border check.

The sign at the Bregana border crossing has been removed.

The delegations of the two countries then went to the Slovenian side, the area of the former border crossing Obrežje, where police officers thanked each other for cooperation, with a symbolic removal of the plaques from the police building in Obrežje.

In the first 15 minutes after midnight, a dozen of cars entered Slovenia from Croatia without a check, greeting the police officers by sounding their horn.

Slovenia was admitted to the Schengen Area 15 years ago.

Text: Hina