What is the Schengen Agreement, and how does it work?
The Schengen Agreement, signed on June 14, 1985, is a pact that prompted most European countries to remove their national boundaries in order to create the “Schengen Area,” a Europe without borders. The accord, which was signed in Luxemburg by only five EU members at the time, is still one of the world’s largest areas that has eliminated border controls between member countries.
The Schengen Agreement’s History
Free movement across European countries is a very old concept that may be traced back to the Middle Ages. In modern times, however, this theory has been debated since Europe was harmed as a result of World War II. However, tangible steps in this direction did not occur until the 1980s, as Europe was mired in an endless argument between two opposing factions: one that supported the idea of a free Europe with no internal border checks between countries, and the other that was vehemently opposed.
France and Germany were the first countries to take real measures toward the concept of free movement, as they agreed to take this hotly discussed subject to the next level. These two countries were the first to raise the above-mentioned issue at the European Council in Fontainebleau on June 17, 1984, when they all agreed to specify the necessary conditions for free movement of individuals.
The “Schengen Agreement,” which covered the gradual elimination of internal borders between countries and expanded control of external borders, was only signed on June 14, 1985, as a culmination of this voyage. The agreement was signed in Schengen, a small village in southern Luxemburg on the Moselle, by the five (5) European countries listed below: France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.
Five years later, on June 19, 1990, a Convention was agreed to put the Schengen Agreement into action. This convention addressed issues such as the elimination of internal border controls, the establishment of a cooperating structure between internal and immigration officers, the definition of procedures for issuing a uniform visa, the operation of a single database for all members known as the SIS – Schengen Information System, and the operation of a single database for all members known as the SIS – Schengen Information System.
As a result, the Schengen Area concept continued to grow, with Italy joining on November 27, 1990, Portugal and Spain joining on June 25, 1991, and Greece joining on November 6, 1992.
Despite the establishment of the Schengen Agreement, which included treaties and rules, the actual implementation of the Schengen Area began on March 26, 1995, when seven Schengen member countries: France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain decided to abolish internal border checks.
Since then, the Schengen Area has had a rapid growth and expansion. As a result, Austria joined on April 28, 1995, and Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden joined on December 19, 1996. In October 1997, Italy and Austria, led by a group of seven of the aforementioned countries, eliminated their internal border restrictions.
Another significant achievement of the Schengen Agreement was the incorporation of the agreement into the legal framework of the European Union by “The Treaty of Amsterdam” in May 1999, whereas previously, the Schengen treaties and rules were not part of the European Union and operated independently.
In January 2000, Greece entered the Schengen Area, followed by Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, and Norway in March 2001, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia in April 2003, and Switzerland in October 2004. This triumphant storey did not end there, as the same nations announced the abolition of their land, sea, and airport border restrictions in December 2007 and March 2008, respectively.
Liechtenstein was the 26th and final country to sign the Schengen Agreement and join the Schengen Area in February 2008.
Switzerland abolished land border controls in December 2008, and airport border controls in March 2009.
The most recent significant event in the implementation of the Schengen Agreement occurred in December 2011, when Liechtenstein declared the abolition of its internal border controls three years after signing the Schengen Agreement.
Members of the Schengen Area who might be interested
Being a member of the European Union (EU) is not inextricably linked to membership in the Schengen Area, despite the fact that it is a legally required step. The bulk of the EU member countries listed below have been affected by unresolved political concerns, resulting in their exclusion from the Schengen Agreement.
As an example, Cyprus has been a member of the EU since 2004, but it is not a member of the Schengen Area, therefore it is unable to sign the Schengen Agreement until it addresses its de facto partition and related political issues. Outside of the EU, the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia will require additional processing and mechanisms until they can join the area.
The European Parliament approved Bulgaria and Romania’s applications to enter the Schengen Area in June 2011, but the Council of Ministers rejected them in September 2011, citing concerns over anti-corruption measures and the fight against organised crime by the Dutch and Finnish governments.
Nonetheless, Bulgaria and Romania are the two (2) EU nations which have not joined the Schengen Area or have not signed the Schengen Agreement since 2007. These countries expressed their desire to join this area, which was approved by the European Parliament in June 2011, but was rejected by the Council of Ministers in September 2011, as Finland and Germany expressed their concerns about these countries’ failure to enforce anti-corruption and anti-criminality mechanisms, as well as the illegal entry of Turks.
Croatia is the next country to join the Schengen Agreement as a possible Schengen Area member. Despite joining the EU on July 1, 2013, the country is yet to become a member of the bloc. The country announced its willingness to join in March 2015, and is currently undergoing a technical evaluation that began on July 1, 2015, and is slated to complete in July 2016. On the other hand, illegal entries from the 2015 influx of migrants who travelled from Greece through North Macedonia and Serbia to Croatia on their way to Slovenia, Austria, and Hungary as Schengen member countries have raised concerns about the area’s long-term viability, particularly in light of the current situation. Furthermore, because of the large number of unlawful entries from the Croatian border, Hungary said that it might vote against Croatia’s entry to the Schengen Area.
Territories of Schengen States that are not part of the Schengen Area
With the exception of the Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands, no other country outside of Europe is a member of the Schengen Area or has signed the Schengen Agreement.
As a result, the following six integral parts of France outside of Europe are members of the EU but not of the Schengen Area: French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion, and Collectivité de Saint Martin. As a result, even the Schengen visa issued by France is not valid in these territories. For non-members of the European Economic Area and non-nationals of Switzerland, each of these regions has its own visa procedures and regimes.
French Polynesia, French Southern, and Antarctic Lands, Caledonia, Saint, and Wallis and Futuna are other integral territories of France that are located outside of European regions and are not members of the EU or Schengen Area.
Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba (BES Islands) and Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten (Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten) are all part of the Netherlands in the Caribbean (independent countries of the Kingdom of Netherlands). These territories are not members of the European Union or the Schengen Area, and thus have their own visa policies and procedures.
Svalbard is an essential part of Norway and has a special status under international law, yet it is not part of the Schengen region. Although this territory does not require a visa to enter, non-nationals cannot enter without first passing through the Schengen Area.
Denmark’s two territories, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, are both part of the country. Despite this, neither the EU nor the Schengen Area recognises them. As a result, holders of Denmark visas are unable to enter either of these two areas unless they first get visas from these countries. Nationals of Nordic Passport Union member nations, on the other hand, can only access these two territories using identification cards.
Posted on Friday, June 18th, 2021 at 4:51 pm in Schengen.