Schengen Agreement

The concept for free movement between the European countries is very old and it can be found through the middle ages. Whereas, in modern times this idea was discoursed ever since Europe suffered detriment resulted from the 2nd World War. However, concrete actions in this regard only took place during 80s, as the Europe was stuck inside an everlasting debate of two opposing fragments: the one that was supporting the idea of free Europe with no internal border checks amongst countries, and the other part that was absolutely against it.

France and Germany are the two pioneering countries to take initial step as regards of free movement concept, steps that were even more concrete, as they commonly agreed to move this over-debated concept into a next level. These two countries on 17 June 1984 were the first ones to bring out the abovementioned topic within the framework of the European Council in Fontainebleau where they all approved to define required conditions for the free movement of citizens.

As a final point of this journey, what it came to be “The Schengen Agreement” – covering the gradual abolishment of the internal borders between countries and an extended control of the external borders, was only signed on 14 June 1985. The Agreement was signed by the five (5) following European countries: France, Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg, and Netherlands, in Schengen, a small village in Southern Luxemburg on the river Moselle.

signing the Schengen Agreement

14 June 1985 – signing the Schengen Agreement: Catherine Lalumière (France), Waldemar Schreckenberger (Germany), Paul De Keersmaeker (Belgium), Robert Goebbels (Luxemburg) & Wim van Eekelen (Netherland).

Five years later, on 19 June 1990, a Convention was signed for the concrete implementation of the Schengen Agreement. This convention covered issues on abolition of internal border controls, definition of procedures for issuing a uniform visa, operation of a single database for all members known as SIS – Schengen Information System as well as the establishment of a cooperating structure between internal and immigration officers.

This way, Schengen Area concept experienced an incessant expansion, as on 27 November 1990 Italy, on 25 June 1991 Portugal and Spain and on 6 November 1992 Greece joined.

Despite that Schengen Agreement – including treaties and rules were established, the real implementation of the Schengen Area finally started on 26 March 1995, where seven (7) Schengen member countries: France, Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain decided to abolish their internal border checks.

Since then, the Schengen Area breathed a fast developing and expanding trend. Thus, on 28 April 1995 Austria, on 19 December 1996 Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden were new five (5) countries to join. On the other hand, led by sample of seven aforementioned countries, in October Italy and in December 1997 Austria abolished their internal border controls.

Another major progress shown by the Schengen Agreement was when in May 1999 “The Treaty of Amsterdam” incorporated the agreement inside the legal framework of the European Union, as in the past the Schengen treaties and rules set by the agreement were not part of the European Union and were operating autonomously.

The enlargement of the Schengen Area continued its prosperous journey as in January 2000 Greece and March 2001 Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, on 16 April 2003 Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia and in October 2004 Switzerland were the new fifteen countries (15) that joined. This successful story did not end there, as in December 2007 the same nations declared the abolishment of their land and sea, and in March 2008 of the airport border controls.

In February 2008, Liechtenstein was the 26th and the last country so far to sign the Schengen Agreement and become part of the Schengen Area.

In December 2008, Switzerland abolished land and in March 2009, the airport border controls.

The latest important event towards the implementation of the Schengen Agreement was in December 2011 when after three years of signing the Schengen Agreement Liechtenstein declared its internal border control abolishment.

Potential Schengen Area members

Being a member state of the European Union (EU) is not unquestionably associated with a membership into the Schengen Area, even though this, legally, is an unavoidable step. The majority of the following EU member countries have been prone of the unresolved political issues that have left these countries outside of the Schengen Agreement.

Such is the case of Cyprus – a member of the EU since 2004 but yet not a member state of the Schengen Area, thus it cannot sign the Schengen Agreement until it resolves its dispute as a de facto divided island and related political problems. The Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia that are outside of the EU will also need other handling and mechanisms until they can join the area.

Just the same, Bulgaria and Romania are the following two (2) members of the EU since 2007 that are not members of the Schengen Area or did not yet signed the Schengen Agreement. These countries submitted their wish to become members of this area, that was approved in June 2011 by the European Parliament but in September 2011. Later on, this request was rejected, as Finland and Germany expressed their worries regarding lack of these countries to enforce mechanisms for fighting corruption and criminality, as well as regarding the illegal entries of Turkish people from these countries towards the Schengen Area.

Croatia is the next country in the list of potential Schengen Area members to sign the Schengen Agreement. Even that it has joined the EU on 1 July 2013,  the country has not yet became a member of the area. The country as of March 2015 has expressed its readiness to become member, and is undergoing a technical evaluation that has started on 1 July 2015 and  is expected to end by July 2016. On the other hand, the illegal entries from the 2015 influx of migrations that came from Greece through Macedonia and Serbia to Croatia heading for Slovenia, Austria, and Hungary as Schengen member countries has grew many questions about the sustainability of the area and especially its further enlargement in this situation. Moreover, since the country was dealing with lots of illegal entries from the Croatian border, Hungary stated that it could be the one to vote against the accession of the Croatia in Schengen Area.

Schengen States Territories that are not part of the Schengen

Apart from the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands, no other country that is located outside of the European continent is not part of the Schengen Area or have not signed the Schengen Agreement.

Accordingly, the following six (6) integral parts of the France located outside the Europe:  French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion, and Collectivity of Saint Martin are members of the EU but are not of the Schengen Area, and therefore even the Schengen visa issued by France is not valid in these territories. Each of these territories has its own visa policies and regimes for nonmembers of the European Economic Area and non-nationals of Switzerland.

These following four (4) territories are also other integral territories of France, located also outside of the European territories that are not members of the EU or Schengen Area: French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Caledonia, Saint, and Wallis and Futuna.

These following six (6) territories are integral parts of Netherland in Caribbean: Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba (BES Islands) and Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten (independent countries of the Kingdom of Netherlands).  None of these territories is not part of the EU nor of the Schengen Area, and they have their own visa policy and regime.

The territory of Svalbard is an integral part of the Norway that under the International Law enjoys a special status but it is not part of the Schengen area. This territory does not imply any visa regime for entering in there, yet any non-national cannot enter it without travelling through the Schengen Area.

These two (2) following territories are an integral part of the Denmark: Faroe Islands and Greenland. Still, none of them is not member of the EU or of the Schengen Area. As regards of visa regime, even Denmark visas are not unescapably, however nationals of the member countries of the Nordic Passport Union can enter these two territories only through Identification cards.