On June 14 the European Union celebrates the 25 anniversary of the Schengen Agreement providing for a gradual abolishment of controls at the common borders.
The Schengen agreement was signed on the 14 June 1985 by Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The agreement, and the subsequent convention adopted in 1990 to implement it agreed to abolish systematic border controls between the countries, allowing free movement of persons. With the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty in 1999, the Schengen cooperation was integrated into the EU legal and institutional framework.
The Schengen area without border controls currently consists of 25 Schengen Member States i.e. the EU countries Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia as well as the three associated non EU countries, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus only partially apply the Schengen acquis at the moment and checks are therefore still carried out at the borders with these three Member States.
The free movement is guaranteed on a territory with 42,673 km of external sea and 7,721 km of land borders, covering 25 countries and 400 million citizens.
The Schengen Convention abolished checks at the internal borders of the signatory states and created a single external border with common rules on external border controls, a common visa policy, police and judicial cooperation and the establishment of the Schengen Information System (SIS). Schengen also inspired to look to a future of common policies protecting our collective security. It drove collective action against criminal activity with EU police and judicial cooperation policies such as information exchange systems, agencies like Frontex, Europol and Eurojust. Financial solidarity has also taken a concrete form through the External Borders Fund.
The freedom of movement between national borders and the abolition of controls at internal frontiers is fundamental for the development of the internal market.
History of Schengen
14 June 1985: The Agreement on the gradual abolition of checks at their common borders is signed between Belgium, the Netherlands, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, France and the Federal Republic of Germany
19 June 1990: The Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement is signed by the same States. It confirms the arrangements and safeguards for implementing the freedom of movement. It will not enter into force until 1995.
26 March 1995: Abolition of border controls between Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal.
26 Oct. 1997/1 Dec. 1997: First move towards the enlargement of the Schengen area: Italy and Austria gradually start to abolish their border controls. This process is completed on the 31st of March 1998.
1 May 1999: Integration of Schengen into the European legal framework following the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty.
1 March 2000: Second move towards the enlargement of the Schengen area: Greece gradually starts to abolish its border controls. This process will be completed on 26 March 2000.
25 March 2001: Abolition of border controls with Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
21 Dec. 2007: Major enlargement of the Schengen area with the abolition of control of land and sea borders with the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Border checks on intra-Schengen flights at airports were abolished on 30 March 2008.
28 Feb. 2008: Signature with Liechtenstein of a protocol on the participation of Liechtenstein in the Schengen area.
12 Dec. 2008: Abolition of border control at land borders with Switzerland. Border checks on intra-Schengen flights at airports were abolished on 29 March 2009.
Relevant legal texts adopted within the EU which form part of the Schengen-related law include:
Schengen Borders Code (Regulation (EC) No 562/2006) which establishes rules governing the movement of persons across borders; in particular this Regulation stresses the abolition of border control at internal borders and further harmonises the rules on crossing external borders and the prerequisites for entry for short stays by third-country nationals. It repeals the relevant parts of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement
Visa Code (Regulation (EC) No 810/2009) applicable since April 5, 2010 sets out all procedures and conditions for issuing "short stay visas" and "airport transit visas". It also establishes the lists of third country nationals who are required to hold "airport transit visas" when passing through the international transit areas of airports situated on the territory of the Member States.
List of third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement (Regulation (EC) No 539/2001).
Local Border Traffic regime (Regulation (EC) 1931/2006): Member States are allowed to conclude bilateral agreements with its neighbours within the framework of the Regulation, on the basis of which they can derogate from the general rules on borders checks for persons living in the border area in order to prevent the creation of barriers to trade, social and cultural interchange or regional cooperation.
The Schengen area in your daily life
If you are an EU citizen
-Francesco is an Italian student who dreams of visiting Scandinavia with his friends. He has already bought his inter-rail ticket but he doesn't know what travel documents he needs, or whether he has to comply with any special legal formalities.
As an EU citizen, not only does Francesco have the right to enter all EU Member States on the presentation of a valid passport or ID card, he does not even need to show it when he travels within the Schengen area. All he has to do is carry a valid passport or ID card, because the authorities may require him to prove his identity. So Francesco had better check the expiration date of his ID before leaving!
-Peter wants to go to Norway but he wonders if the same rules on visas and passports apply to Norway, which is not an EU country. Although Norway is not part of the European Union, it is a member of the European Economic Area and of Schengen and therefore he will only need a valid passport or ID card when required to prove his identity.
-Danuta is Polish and works in Brussels. Next month she has to participate in a job-meeting that will take place in Warsaw, her hometown, where her parents live. She wants to take her baby Eva with her to spend some time with her parents. Danuta and Eva, as citizens of the European Union, have the right to travel anywhere in the EU and Schengen area and their right does not depend on their circumstances, whether they are travelling for professional or private reasons. Danuta only has to make sure that both her and Eva have their own individual passport or ID card.
-Angel is Spanish. He flies to Bulgaria every month to visit his girlfriend, Anna. Although Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, it is not yet part of the Schengen area - like other four EU countries (Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom). This means that when going to and coming from Bulgaria he will have to show his passport and will undergo the normal, minimum border controls for EU citizens.
If you are a non-EU citizen
-Martin is a Canadian student who won a scholarship that will allow him to spend two months at the Sorbonne in Paris, to carry out research for his thesis. Before going back to Canada he would like to travel for three weeks throughout Italy, Spain and Greece.
Martin, as a citizen of a third country, may enter and travel within the territory of the countries applying the Schengen provisions in full, like the counties he wants to visit for up to three months, as long as he fills certain entry conditions.
First of all he needs a valid passport. He should also be able to demonstrate the purpose of his journey, that he has the means to live in Europe for three months, and that he has already bought his return ticket (or that he has enough money to buy one).
As a Canadian citizen, Martin is exempt from the requirement of a short stay visa.
-Punjit is from India; he is planning to spend his holidays visiting several Schengen countries: France, Italy, Spain and Greece. He will stay in Europe for a month.
Punjit needs a short stay visa to go to Europe because India belongs to the list of those third countries whose nationals must have a visa when crossing the Schengen area's external borders. Since Punjit doesn't have a main destination, as he is planning to visit several countries during his stay in Europe, he should apply for a visa at the Embassy or Consulate of the country where he will stay the longest, or his first point of entry. That visa will allow him to move throughout the Schengen area.
-Hisham is a Tunisian man, who lives in Germany and spends his holidays with his parents in Tunisia. On his way back, he would like to go to visit his brother in Portugal.
He has a valid residence permit issued by Germany, which belongs to the Schengen area. This residence permit together with a travel document ensures that he does not need to apply for a visa. This means that he, a third-country national, can enter Portugal, another Schengen country, for a short stay without a visa, simply by showing his passport and a German-issued valid residence permit
If Hisham had a residence permit issued by the United Kingdom or Ireland, he would not be able to enter a Schengen country, since these two countries do not apply the Schengen rules in full. To go to Portugal, he would need to get a short stay visa.
-Solinas is a Bolivian girl. She would like to move to Spain because she has found a job in Madrid. Solinas is planning to stay in Madrid for more than three months, so she needs a long-term visa or residence permit. It is up to Schengen countries to set their own requirements for issuing a visa or resident permit.
For more information
Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs:
Justice and Home Affairs Newsroom: