Travellers flying between Croatia and other Schengen zone countries will no longer have to go through border controls, marking the final step after the Balkan country officially joined the world's largest free travel area on 1 January.
Croatia's airports dropped internal border controls on Sunday for passengers travelling to or from the borderless Schengen Zone, potentially sparking an increase in its tourism sector.
The Balkan country famed for its spectacular Adriatic Sea coast officially joined the zone on 1 January 2023 but didn't lift its air borders until Sunday in order to align the date with summer flight schedules.
Planes departing to or arriving from the area will now be treated as domestic flights.
“The regime of entry into Croatia at airports will now be the same as it has been in force since 1 January on roads, railway crossings, and seaports,” Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said when announcing the news last Wednesday.
"Practically all flights to Croatia from Schengen countries and vice versa are now [the same as] domestic flights, without any document control," Plenković added.
The country's largest airport in the capital Zagreb has made significant investments in updating its terminals, making more space for waiting areas and setting up additional kiosks to register passengers from non-Schengen countries.
A teddy bear for the last Croatian att the road crossing pre-Schengen
Croatia, an EU member state since 2013, celebrated entering the world's largest free travel zone on New Year's Day, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen appearing at the Croatian-Slovenian border in Bregana on 1 January to mark the occasion.
“There is no place in Europe where it is more true today that it is the season of new beginnings and new chapters than here at the border between Croatia and Slovenia,” von der Leyen said, addressing the press at Bregana. “Indeed, this is a day for history books.”
Slovenia, which is also a part of the bloc, was previously tasked with safeguarding the Schengen's boundary after entering the zone in 2007. Before 1 January, Croatia shared a Schengen border with Hungary in its north as well.
The country of some 3.9 million now serves as the zone's point of entry for neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro — all EU membership candidates and former Yugoslav republics together with Slovenia and Croatia.
Entering the Schengen zone was seen as a major coup for Croatia's integration into the broader European family, as the country simultaneously adopted the euro as its formal currency on the same date.
The festive mood at border crossings was highlighted by a special gift for the last Croatian citizen to enter the zone before all checks were removed at Bregana — a large teddy bear wearing a border patrol uniform.
"The borders that have been there between us and our neighbours and the natural surroundings that we as a people and a country belong to are now gone," Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović said at Bregana on 31 December.
The Schengen area comprises 27 countries, including 22 EU states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Just under 2 million people live in one country inside the zone and work in another.
Watch the video report to find out more.
*An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Croatia joined the Schengen Zone on 26 March. Croatia joined the Schengen Zone on 1 January 2023 but didn't lift its air borders to Schengen countries until 26 March.