Signed on June 14, 1985, in Schengen, Luxembourg, the Schengen Agreement originally was a separate agreement made by five of the then ten European Economic Community (EEC) member states. The purpose of this agreement was to eliminate internal barriers to trade in goods and services. This purpose expanded during the 1990 Schengen Convention, which sought to abolish internal border controls and universalize visa policy to allow for a greater movement of people. These agreements eventually led to the creation of the Schengen Area on March 26, 1995. The Schengen Area agreements have since become a part of European Union (EU) procedure, meaning that further amendments to the agreement must go through the processes of European Union institutional approval. This also means that potential EU member states must negotiate their Schengen Area status as part of their accession to the EU. The Czech Republic joined the Schengen Area during the largest expansion of the number of member states, on December 21, 2007. This expansion brought the total number of participatory countries from fifteen (15) to twenty-four (24). These nine (9) member states (The Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia) all joined the European Union on May 1, 2004, and had since begun implementing parts of the Schengen Agreement prior to their full accession (Schengen Acquis). This period of partial implementation included border checks between the prospective states and full Schengen Area member states, police and judicial cooperation, and external border checks. These policies were enforced until the European Council confirmed fulfillment of all Schengen Area requirements, and allowed for the abolishment of internal border checks. Cyprus, Bulgaria, and Romania have also implemented this partial form of Schengen Area procedure, following similar guidelines as the other member states, which joined in 2007. Since 2007, only two more countries have become full member states of the Schengen Area, bringing the member state total to its current number, twenty-six. Switzerland formally joined the Schengen Area on December 12, 2008, and ceased internal border checks on the same day. However, customs checks still occur at Switzerland’s borders because the country is not a member of the EU Customs Union. Liechtenstein signed the Schengen Area accession agreement on February 27, 2008, and fully implemented Schengen policies on December 19, 2011. Border checks at international airports on flights within the Schengen Area ended on March 29, 2009.
The Schengen Area is currently comprised of 22 European Union Member countries, and four European Free Trade Association member states (with whom the Schengen Area has negotiated similar border policies). Three European microstates are also within the borders of the Schengen area, though they are not formal Schengen Agreement signatories. Four additional EU member states have also legally committed to entering the Schengen Area in the near future. Effectively, this creates a 26-country zone in which travelers may move between countries without having to go through passport checks or customs offices. However, if you are not EU citizen, you should keep your passport with you while traveling abroad, in addition to any visa or legal form of ID you own, as well as proof of insurance. Source: European Parliament
Austria, Belgium, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden
Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland
Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City
Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, and Romania
Today, the Schengen Area refers to the 26 states within which no border checks occur at the common internal borders. In practical terms, this means that Schengen Area internal borders can be crossed nearly anywhere at any time. This “freedom of movement” has allowed for the expansion of trade in goods and services, ease of travel within the Schengen Area for residents and tourists, and the adoption of a unified visa and border policy. Below are some statistics about how the Schengen Area has benefitted its member states since its adoption and implementation.
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service (March 2016). „The economic impact of suspending Schengen“ (PDF). Retrieved 3 June 2019 It is important to note that the Schengen Area makes security and defense for its member states more efficient and streamlined, rather than be compromised, at the expense of greater trade. The absence of border checks at the internal borders is more than compensated for by extensive member state cooperation and universally high Schengen Area standards for procedure in multiple areas, including police and judicial cooperation, standardized visa and consular matters, and personal data protection. All of these measures were explicitly designed to prevent the misuse of the “freedom of movement” for criminal purposes.