Schengen Agreement – history and members

On June 14th 1985, governments of five EU States (France, Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg, and Netherlands) signed the Agreement on the gradual abolition of checks at common borders, followed by the signing on June 19th 1990 of the Convention implementing that Agreement. The implementation of the Schengen Agreements started in 1995.

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). This Agreement was signed in Schengen, a small village in Luxembourg.

Schengen Agreements have now been incorporated into the body of rules governing the EU. Today, the Schengen Area consists of 26 states, including four which are not members of the European Union: Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have joined the Schengen Area.

Countries in the Schengen Area have eliminated border controls with the other Schengen members and strengthened border controls with non-Schengen states. Any person of any nationality may cross the internal borders without being subjected to border checks. However, the competent national authorities can carry out police checks also at the internal borders and in border areas.

The chronology of Schengen accession:

June 14th 1985 - France, Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg, Netherlands (implementation March 26th 1995)

November 1990 – Italy (implementation October 26th, 1997)

June 25th 1991 - Portugal and Spain (implementation March 26th 1995)

November 6th 1992 – Greece (implementation January 1st 2000)

April 28th 1995 – Austria (implementation December 1st 1997)

December 19th 1996 - Denmark Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden (implementation March 25th 2001)

April 16th 2003 - Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia (implementation December 21st 2007)

October 26th 2004 – Switzerland (implementation December 12th 2008)

February 28th 2008 – Liechtenstein (implementation December 19th 2011)

Potential Schengen Area members:

  • Cyprus – a member of the EU since 2004 but yet not a member state of the Schengen Area. Cyprus cannot sign the Schengen Agreement until it resolves its dispute as a de facto divided island and related political problems.
  • Bulgaria and Romania are members of the EU since 2007 but are not members of the Schengen Area, because 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 from these countries towards the Schengen Area.
  • Croatia joined the EU on 1 July 2013, the country has not yet become a member of the area. The country as of March 2015 has expressed its readiness to become member. However, due to the migrant crisis, the accession of this country to the Schengen is now uncertain.

Other cases:

The Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands, are located outside of the European continent but are not part of the Schengen Area.

French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion, and Collectivity of Saint Martin (integral parts of France) 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.

French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Caledonia, Saint, and Wallis and Futuna are also integral territories of France, they are not members of the EU or the Schengen Area.

These following six territories are integral parts of Netherland in Caribbean: Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba (BES Islands) and Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. 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.

Faroe Islands and Greenland are integral parts of Denmark. Still, none of them is not member of the EU or of the Schengen Area.