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Bulgaria Capital Airport Near Ready to Join Schengen Zone

Date: 17.11.2009

After a year and a half delay, Sofia airport can now boast it is ready to apply the regulations, which will stem from the country's official membership in the Schengen area, scheduled for 2011 at the earliest.

The most noticeable changes for passengers will be that they will no longer have to pass through customs control within the Schengen area.

At the same time, the implementation of the Schengen Agreement means that passengers will move through two completely separated sections of the airport, namely a Schengen and a non-Schengen area.

Should they lack a permit for entering the Schengen zone, they will be accommodated at special rooms, which were visited on Monday by Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov and Transport Minister Alexander Tsvetkov.

The cost of the repair works stood at BGN 290,000, which have been collected by airport fees, the transport ministry announced.

Passengers, who leave the Schengen area, will be double checked, even though this is not a requirement of the regulations -once they will show their passports at the main entrance and once again at the specially created desks for non-Schengen passengers.

The European Union made EUR 161 M (USD 241 M) available to Bulgaria which will be the eastern-most border to the zone to bring its computers into line with Schengen requirements.

But Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said only 58% of the money had been spent so far because of delays in handing out contracts.

The deadline for concluding contracts under the facility expires on December 31 this year, but Bulgaria and neighboring Romania have asked Brussels for a three-month extension for the funding until March 2010.

To meet all technical criteria, Bulgaria is to start issuing biometric passports from March.

European Commission representatives are expected to visit Bulgaria on November 19 to check whether it has managed to meet the criteria to join the Schengen area.

The 25 nations in the zone include Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and most European Union members except Britain, Ireland, Bulgaria and Romania.

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