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The Schengen Agreement (English: /ˈʃɛŋən/) is a treaty which led to the creation of Europe's Schengen Area, in which internal border checks have largely been abolished. It was signed on 14 June 1985, near the town of Schengen, Luxembourg, by five of the ten member states of the then European Economic Community. It proposed measures intended to gradually abolish border checks at the signatories' common borders, including reduced-speed vehicle checks which allowed vehicles to cross borders without stopping, allowing residents in border areas freedom to cross borders away from fixed checkpoints, and the harmonisation of visa policies.[1]

In 1990, the Agreement was supplemented by the Schengen Convention which proposed the complete abolition of systematic internal border controls and a common visa policy. The Schengen Area operates very much like a single state for international travel purposes with external border controls for travellers entering and exiting the area, and common visas, but with no internal border controls. It currently consists of 26 European countries covering a population of over 400 million people and an area of 4,312,099 square kilometres (1,664,911 sq mi).[2]

Originally, the Schengen treaties and the rules adopted under them operated independently from the European Union. However, in 1999 they were incorporated into European Union law by the Amsterdam Treaty, while providing opt-outs for the only two EU member states that had remained outside the Area: Ireland and the United Kingdom (which subsequently withdrew from the EU in 2020). Schengen is now a core part of EU law, and all EU member states without an opt-out which have not already joined the Schengen Area are legally obliged to do so when technical requirements have been met. Several non-EU countries are included in the area.[3]

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In 1990, the Agreement was supplemented by the Schengen Convention which proposed the abolition of internal border controls and a common visa policy. It was this Convention that created the Schengen Area through the complete abolition of border controls between Schengen member states, common rules on visas, and police and judicial cooperation.[citation needed]

The Schengen Agreement and its implementing Convention were enacted in 1995 only for some signatories,[which?] but just over two years later during the Amsterdam Intergovernmental Conference, all European Union member states except the United Kingdom and Ireland had signed the Agreement. It was during those negotiations, which led to the Amsterdam Treaty, that the incorporation of the Schengen acquis[7] into the main body of European Union law was agreed along with opt-outs for Ireland and the United Kingdom (which subsequently withdrew from the EU in 2020), which were to remain outside of the Schengen Area.[8]

In December 1996 two non-EU member states, Norway and Iceland, signed an association agreement with the signatories of the Agreement to become part of the Schengen Area. While this agreement never came into force, both countries did become part of the Schengen Area after concluding similar agreements with the EU.[9] The Schengen Convention itself was not open for signature by non-EU member states.[10] In 2009, Switzerland finalised its official entry to the Schengen Area with the acceptance of an association agreement by popular referendum in 2005.[11]

Now that the Schengen Agreement is part of the acquis communautaire, it has, for EU members, lost the status of a treaty, which could only be amended according to its terms. Instead, amendments are made according to the legislative procedure of the EU under EU treaties.[12] Ratification by the former agreement signatory states is not required for altering or repealing some or all of the former Schengen acquis.acquis communautaire, it has, for EU members, lost the status of a treaty, which could only be amended according to its terms. Instead, amendments are made according to the legislative procedure of the EU under EU treaties.[12] Ratification by the former agreement signatory states is not required for altering or repealing some or all of the former Schengen acquis.[13] Legal acts setting out the conditions for entry into the Schengen Area are now made by majority vote in the EU's legislative bodies. New EU member states do not sign the Schengen Agreement as such, instead being bound to implement the Schengen rules as part of the pre-existing body of EU law, which every new entrant is required to accept.[citation needed]

This situation means that non-EU Schengen member states have few formally binding options to influence the shaping and evolution of Schengen rules; their options are effectively reduced to agreeing or withdrawing from the agreement. However, consultations with affected countries are conducted prior to the adoption of particular new legislation.[14]

In 2016, border controls were temporarily reintroduced in seven Schengen countries (Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Poland, and Sweden) in response to the European migrant crisis.[15][16]

Portugal has since reintroduced checks several times along its border with Spain, during the UEFA Euro 2004 championships and when Portugal hosted the NATO 2010 Lisbon summit. The most recent checks were temporarily reintroduced on the border from 10 May 2017 to 14 May 2017, during Pope Francis's visit to Fátima, Portugal.[17]