Ireland will join the Schengen Agreement

Schengen Agreement

Abolition of border controls

The Schengen Agreement abolishes border controls between its member states and harmonises police and judicial cooperation. From the original five founding members, the number of members has now grown to 26, including non-EU countries. The Schengen Agreement and its accompanying regulations such as the right of residence or border protection have become part of the institutional and legal structure of the EU through the European Treaties.

Current: Schengen Agreement: Entry bans due to Corona crisis

Member States of the Schengen Agreement: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Czech Republic and Hungary

The land borders of the Schengen area with more than 400 million inhabitants are over 7,700 kilometers long, the sea borders just under 42,700 kilometers. According to the EU Commission, there are around 1.25 billion journeys across borders within this region every year.

Europe without border controls: This success was achieved not within the legal framework of the EU, but in the form of an intergovernmental agreement. On June 15, 1985, in Schengen, Luxembourg, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany agreed an agreement whose core principle reads: “Internal borders may be crossed at any point without personal controls”. The name “Schengen Agreement” is derived from the place of signature.

In the following years, other states joined the Schengen Agreement, so that today a total of 26 states belong to the Schengen Agreement. One speaks of the "Schengen states" and describes the entirety of the members as the "Schengen area". Not all EU states signed up to the Schengen Agreement, but non-EU states also belong to the Schengen states.

Great Britain and Ireland decided not to join the Schengen Agreement. The EU countries Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Cyprus are currently candidate countries. The members who are part of the Schengen Agreement but not the EU are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway. Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican State have not signed the agreement, but because of their close ties with Spain, France and Italy, they do not carry out border controls.

On June 19, 1990, in order to implement the Schengen Agreement, the Agreement on the Implementation of the Schengen Agreement (Schengen Implementation Agreement - SDÜ) was signed. The aim of the SDÜ was to ensure a uniform area of ​​security and justice through harmonization between the Schengen states in the following areas:

  • Uniform rules for the entry and short-term stay of foreigners in the Schengen area (uniform Schengen visa);
  • Asylum (determination of the Member State responsible for an asylum application);
  • Measures against cross-border drug trafficking;
  • police cooperation and
  • Cooperation between the Schengen states in the judiciary.

The SDÜ came into force on September 1st, 1993, but the practical application of its individual provisions took place only after the necessary technical and legal prerequisites had been created (establishment of databases and the necessary data protection authorities) - this "coming into force" took place on March 26th, 1995.

With the Schengen Protocol to the Amsterdam Treaty of October 2, 1997, Schengen cooperation was transferred to the EU in many areas with effect from May 1, 1999 and is therefore also part of the Lisbon Treaty. There are special regulations for Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark. Great Britain and Ireland are not parties to the Schengen Agreement. Denmark decides on a case-by-case basis whether it will join the further development of the Schengen legal framework on the basis of international law and whether it wishes to apply Community law that came into being without its participation as national law.

Significance of the Schengen Agreement
With the Schengen Agreement, border controls in the Schengen area are basically a thing of the past. When traveling between Schengen states, an identification document must be carried with you in order to be able to identify yourself abroad, but no controls take place when crossing the border. Since the Schengen area also includes non-EU countries such as Norway, the same freedom of movement provisions apply here.

Not only EU citizens but also third-country nationals benefit from the new freedom of travel. However, on one condition: You must have a right of residence in one of these Schengen countries. Citizens from third countries who do not live in a Schengen country but only spend their holidays there only need a single visa. This visa is issued by a Schengen state and is then valid for entry and short-term stays in all contracting states. Incidentally, the freedom to travel for third-country nationals only applies to stays of up to three months. Each Member State also decides itself on long-term residence permits.

It was agreed from the start that with the abolition of border controls, a number of compensatory measures had to be implemented. It should be prevented that borderless Europe is bought with new risks in the area of ​​internal security.

In the logic of the Schengen agreements, strict checks on persons at external borders are an important counterweight to the elimination of controls at internal borders. Common regulations have been found for the question of entry into the Schengen area. The contracting states mutually recognize the visas issued by their national authorities. In addition, they have committed themselves to mutual support from their police services. An “electronic manhunt book”, the “Schengen Information System” (SIS), helps. The SIS is a computer-aided system that enables the exchange of data on searched persons or objects.

The central database is located in Strasbourg and ensures that all national SIS have the same information. In addition, under tight conditions, police officers are allowed to “chase” fleeing criminals across the border. The Schengen states were also able to find common solutions in the areas of gun law and drug policy.

From the beginning, the Schengen Agreement had an important role model function for the entire EU. With the Treaty of Amsterdam, the agreement was incorporated into the single institutional framework of the Union. The free crossing of borders between the member states thus became an EU citizen right.

The rules on responsibility for asylum procedures were replaced in 2003 by the so-called Dublin II Regulation. Today the Dublin III regulation (EU No. 604/2013) applies in this area.

Temporary reintroduction of border controls possible

The Schengen Borders Code defines how the rules on Europe without border controls are implemented in practice. This text specifies the conditions when a state may temporarily reintroduce border controls. According to Article 23, "in the event of a serious threat to public order or internal security", a member state can exceptionally control persons at its borders for a limited period of time. The measures may last a maximum of 30 days or as long as the "serious threat" persists.

The state makes sovereign decisions and, according to Article 24, is only obliged to inform the other countries and the EU Commission and to explain the reasons. In practice, this clause is used at political summits or football matches, for example to refuse entry to foreign hooligans. Since the wave of refugees in 2015 and 2016, the EU has been debating reform of the Schengen rules.

Schengen Agreement: Entry bans due to the corona crisis

In the case of the rapidly spreading coronavirus, many of the 26 member states decided to reintroduce border controls and impose entry bans. The result: EU citizens can no longer move freely within the European Union. The cross-border movement of goods and the cross-border movement of commuters are not affected.

The Schengen Borders Code defines the legal basis for the reintroduction of identity checks at national borders within the Schengen area. There are two options: Either a country decides to reintroduce checks on persons at its national borders or the Council of the European Union recommends, on the proposal of the European Commission, the reintroduction of controls at borders within the entire Schengen area. The EU countries must examine to what extent entry bans and border controls are appropriate to protect public order or internal security.

It must also take into account the consequences for the Schengen countries that do not reintroduce border controls. If the country decides that the reintroduction of border controls is proportionate, it must inform the other member countries and the European Commission. That should happen at least four weeks in advance. If a country has to act immediately, the deadline does not apply. The country can then reintroduce border controls for 10 days. If the threat persists, the period can be extended to up to two months. The country must justify its decision to the European Commission by disclosing the reasons for the decision and providing information on border crossing points and the duration of the planned controls.

In the event of a threat to the entire Schengen area, the Council of the European Union can recommend the reintroduction of border controls in one or more Schengen countries. He does this when there is inadequate control at the external borders of the Schengen area. The European Commission can recommend this step. The border controls are usually recommended for 6 months, an extension to 2 years is possible.