The History of the Schengen Area

The Schengen Agreement is congruent with the Foundation Treaties of the European Communities. The main purpose and mission of the Schengen cooperation is the free movement of persons without checks at the common borders. It is through the Schengen Agreements that European Institutions actively promote the foundational goal of European Integration as imagined by the Foundation Treaties of the European Communities. In these treaties, the European Union member states already declared their ultimate aim of developing the internal market as an area without internal borders to ensure free movement of goods, services, persons and capital. It has taken more than 40 years for the idea of free movement of persons to be put into practice. Though always a theoretical goal of European Integration, adopting the Schengen Area agreement in its current form has taken multiple decades. At first, the area was implemented at a purely intergovernmental level, and only in relation to some EU countries. The gradual development of a common area without checks at internal borders began in 1985 in a small Luxembourg town, the name of which gradually became synonymous with the entire set of standards related to the protection of the external EU borders. Agreements similar in process, but smaller in scope, preceded the Schengen Agreement of 1985. The Saarbrücken Agreement, concluded between the Federal Republic of Germany and France, resulted from the threat of a strike action of European transport operators because of endless queues at the state borders between these countries. To remedy the issue, the agreement provided for gradual abolition of checks at their common borders and application of the principle of free movement of goods and persons. Negotiations on similar measures within the Benelux countries occurred one year later (in 1985), leading to the eventual signature of the Schengen Agreement between Germany, France and the Benelux countries. Muzeum
      Schengenu The Schengen Agreement in the European Museum Schengen in the Luxembourg town Schengen. Source: ctk Initial Significance and Continued Impact of the Schengen Agreement The signatory countries declared their interest in creating an area of free movement of persons and the abolition of checks at the common, i.e. internal, borders, accompanied by the introduction of standardized effective checks at the external borders. The importance of this agreement is illustrated by the fact that cooperation on the protection of the common area today is referred to simply by the word „Schengen.” Five years later, in 1990, all five countries again confirmed their intentions by signing the Schengen Implementing Convention, which set out, in detail, all measures related to the abolition of checks and necessary compensatory measures. Such a fundamental change of the standard regime at the state borders, however, needed thorough preparation. That is why it took another five years before the Schengen cooperation moved from written declarations to practical implementation in 1995. The Schengen Area was finally realized in March 1995, when the obstacles at borders were finally removed. In the following years, border-crossing points were abolished in other European countries. Today, signs in foreign languages or boards welcoming drivers in the territory of a neighboring state are the only apparent evidence of having crossed a state border. Schengen is Enlarging With the gradual increase in the number of Schengen countries occurring over time as the EU expanded, the political importance of Schengen cooperation increased as well. This was abundantly apparent after 1999, when the application of the Schengen Agreement fully transferred from the inter-governmental level, and was subsequently incorporated into the framework of the European Union in 1999 through the Amsterdam Treaty. Since then, there have been a growing number of common legal regulations and other measures related to the protection of the common territory, together referred to as the “Schengen Acquis.” The incorporation of the Schengen Agreements into the EU framework was an important milestone in the development of Schengen cooperation because, through this process, Schengen Integration became a prerequisite for membership in the EU. Because of this, every new member state since 1999 must fulfil all of the “Schengen Acquis” requirements as a part of their EU entry. Similar to the implementation of the Euro currency, the question is not whether but when each new Member State, fully joins the Schengen Area and removes internal checks at common borders. The Czech Republic in the Schengen Area The integration of The Czech Republic and eight other Member States to the Schengen area took place on December 21, 2007, when checks at the land borders of the Czech Republic with the neighboring countries were removed (exception: International airport border checks on Schengen Area internal flights were abolished on March 30, 2008). The EU Council decided the final and legally binding abolition of checks at internal borders for Justice and Home Affairs on December 6, 2007. Approving this decision was possible only after the fulfilment of all Schengen standards had been verified and access to the Schengen joint information database had been granted. This database makes the abolition of internal checks not only possible, but also efficient, for Schengen agreement member states. To the Present Day
On December 12, 2008, the Schengen area was enlarged by another new state, Switzerland. Switzerland is unique among Schengen member states because it still undergoes internal customs checks. These checks occur because Switzerland is not a member of the EU Customs Union. Liechtenstein became a member of the Schengen Area on December 19, 2011. Schengen Sign Source: čtk

A Condensed Timeline of Schengen Accessions

The abolition of police checks at common borders on March 26, 1995 included, along with the five original contracting parties of the 1985 Schengen Agreement (i.e. Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg), Spain and Portugal. Very soon, Italy (1990) and Greece (1992) acceded to the Schengen Implementing Convention; both countries, however, had to wait several years for full integration into the Schengen cooperation. Italy fully abolished police checks at its internal borders together with Austria in 1998, and Greece in 2000. A similar period of several years always separated the formal and practical accession to the Schengen area during all rounds of the Schengen enlargement process. On April 28, 1995, Austria added its signature to the Schengen Implementing Convention and was followed by Denmark, Finland and Sweden on December 19, 1996. With respect to existence of the Nordic Passport Union, it was also necessary to solve consequences of this Schengen enlargement as Norway and Iceland were concerned; towards these countries, standards of very close cooperation had been already applied for a number of years, including the removal of the obligation to present travel documents when crossing common borders. The issue of Norway and Iceland’s integration to the Schengen cooperation was solved by means of a specific Accession Agreement, which resulted in the first enlargement of the Schengen area by non-EU countries. Police checks at borders with these five Nordic countries were removed in 2001 after it had been verified that all necessary conditions had been met. On December 21, 2007, nine new EU Member States joined the Schengen area: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. On December 12, 2008, Switzerland became a new Schengen State. Any other new Schengen states have to successfully pass the Schengen evaluation and demonstrate its readiness to apply the full Schengen acquis and to abolish internal border control. Currently, four states (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Liechtenstein, and Romania) aim at joining the Schengen area. Cyprus has already undergone one part of the Schengen acquis, of which continuation is preconditioned by the operational second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II). The start of evaluation of Liechtenstein´s preparedness for joining Schengen is preconditioned by entering into force of the protocol on its accession to the accession agreement between Switzerland and EU/EC. Currently, ratification process of this protocol is approaching its end. The verification of readiness of Bulgaria and Romania for accession into the Schengen area started in autumn 2008 and is under way. Both countries aim at joining the Schengen area in March 2011.
Autor: Euroskop