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The Schengen area and cooperation

The Schengen area and cooperation

 

SUMMARY OF:

The Schengen acquis — Agreement between the Governments of the States of the Benelux Economic Union, the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Republic on the gradual abolition of checks at their common borders

The Schengen acquis — Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 between the Governments of the States of the Benelux Economic Union, the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Republic on the gradual abolition of checks at their common borders

WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE SCHENGEN AREA?

  • It aims to allow EU residents to travel across the internal borders of its member countries without being checked or having to show their passports.
  • Opening up internal borders is one side of the Schengen coin. The other is to ensure the safety of its citizens. This involves tightening and applying uniform criteria on controls on entry by non-Schengen nationals at the common external border, developing cooperation between border guards, national police and judicial authorities and use of sophisticated information exchange systems.
  • The Schengen acquis has been amended as new countries joined the area and new EU legislation has been incorporated into it.

KEY POINTS

Cooperation

Schengen cooperation has developed from an initial plan between a few governments into a fully fledged EU policy area in the following stages:

  • 1985: Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg (Benelux), the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of France (5 of the then 10 European Economic Community (EEC) countries, now EU countries) sign an agreement, in the Luxembourg village of Schengen, on the gradual abolition of their internal border controls;
  • 1990: the same 5 countries sign the Schengen convention supplementing the agreement and laying down the measures and safeguards to put the policy of no internal border controls into effect;
  • 1995: implementation of the Schengen agenda begins with the participation of 7 EU countries;
  • 1997: the Treaty of Amsterdam brings Schengen cooperation between some governments into the EU’s legal framework.

Membership

  • From 5 founding members, the Schengen area now includes all 27 EU countries apart from Ireland (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are also Schengen countries but do not apply as yet the whole Schengen acquis).
  • Non-EU countries Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are also members of the Schengen area.

Internal border checks in practice

  • Anyone, whatever their nationality, may cross an internal border within the Schengen area without being checked.
  • National authorities can carry out police spot-checks either at the border or in border areas when these are based on general information and experience and are not systematic passport controls.
  • Individuals require certain travel documents, depending on whether they are EU nationals, non-EU family members or non-EU citizens.
  • A Schengen country may exceptionally reintroduce border controls, initially for up to 30 days, if there is a serious threat to public policy or internal security. It must inform other Schengen members, the European Parliament, European Commission and the public.

External borders

The Schengen area has gradually tightened controls on its external borders, integrating them into a single set of rules. This now covers:

Schengen Information System (SIS)

This large-scale computer database:

Visa Information System (VIS)

This allows Schengen members to share visa data, especially on short-term visa applications. Like the SIS, it is operated by the EU Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA).

Membership conditions

Countries applying to join fully the Schengen area must meet certain conditions and must be able to:

  • control their external borders and issue uniform Schengen visas;
  • cooperate with other national law enforcement agencies to operate a high level of security;
  • apply the common set of Schengen rules (known as the Schengen acquis), such as land, sea and air border controls, issue visas, support police cooperation and protect personal data;
  • use the SIS.

DATE OF ENTRY INTO FORCE

The implementation of the Schengen Agreement, originally involving 7 EU countries, entered into force on 26 March 1995, abolishing internal border controls .

BACKGROUND

For more information, see:

MAIN DOCUMENTS

The Schengen acquis — Agreement between the Governments of the States of the Benelux Economic Union, the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Republic on the gradual abolition of checks at their common borders (OJ L 239, 22.9.2000, pp. 13-18)

The Schengen acquis — Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 between the Governments of the States of the Benelux Economic Union, the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Republic on the gradual abolition of checks at their common borders (OJ L 239, 22.9.2000, pp. 19-62)

RELATED DOCUMENTS

Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 November 2019 on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulations (EU) No 1052/2013 and (EU) 2016/1624 (OJ L 295, 14.11.2019, pp. 1-131)

Regulation (EU) 2019/817 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 May 2019 on establishing a framework for interoperability between EU information systems in the field of borders and visa and amending Regulations (EC) No 767/2008, (EU) 2016/399, (EU) 2017/2226, (EU) 2018/1240, (EU) 2018/1726 and (EU) 2018/1861 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Council Decisions 2004/512/EC and 2008/633/JHA (OJ L 135, 22.5.2019, pp. 27-84)

Successive amendments to Regulation (EU) 2019/817 have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

Regulation (EU) 2018/1860 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 November 2018 on the use of the Schengen Information System for the return of illegally staying third-country nationals (OJ L 312, 7.12.2018, pp. 1-13)

Regulation (EU) 2018/1861 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 November 2018 on the establishment, operation and use of the Schengen Information System (SIS) in the field of border checks, and amending the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement, and amending and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1987/2006 (OJ L 312, 7.12.2018, pp. 14-55)

See consolidated version.

Regulation (EU) 2018/1862 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 November 2018 on the establishment, operation and use of the Schengen Information System (SIS) in the field of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, amending and repealing Council Decision 2007/533/JHA, and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1986/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Commission Decision 2010/261/EU (OJ L 312, 7.12.2018, pp. 56-106)

See consolidated version.

Regulation (EU) 2018/1806 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 November 2018 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement (OJ L 303, 28.11.2018, pp. 39-58)

Regulation (EU) 2018/1726 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 November 2018 on the European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA), and amending Regulation (EC) No 1987/2006 and Council Decision 2007/533/JHA and repealing Regulation (EU) No 1077/2011 (OJ L 295, 21.11.2018, pp. 99-137)

See consolidated version.

Regulation (EU) 2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 on a Union Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code) (OJ L 77, 23.3.2016, pp. 1-52)

See consolidated version.

Council Regulation (EU) No 1053/2013 of 7 October 2013 establishing an evaluation and monitoring mechanism to verify the application of the Schengen acquis and repealing the Decision of the Executive Committee of 16 September 1998 setting up a Standing Committee on the evaluation and implementation of Schengen (OJ L 295, 6.11.2013, pp. 27-37)

Regulation (EC) No 810/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 establishing a Community Code on Visas (Visa Code) (OJ L 243, 15.9.2009, pp. 1-58)

See consolidated version.

Regulation (EC) No 767/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 July 2008 concerning the Visa Information System (VIS) and the exchange of data between Member States on short-stay visas (VIS Regulation) (OJ L 218, 13.8.2008, pp. 60-81)

See consolidated version.

last update 14.05.2020

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