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,
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
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
Source: European Parliament
- Twenty-two EU States are in the Schengen Area:
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
- Four EFTA Member States are Associated with/ Participatory in the Schengen Area:
Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland
- Three European Microstates are within the Schengen Area:
Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City
- Four European Member States want to join the Schengen Area in the Future:
Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, and Romania
About the Schengen Area
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.
- Total trade between any two Schengen Area countries increases by approximately 0.1% per year.
- One border control removal is equivalent to the removal of a 0.7% tariff (on average).
- About 1.7 million people commute to work across a European border each day, and in some regions, these people
constitute up to a third of the workforce.
- Each year, there are 1.3 billion crossings of Schengen borders (including goods and people).
- The trade in goods is benefited more strongly than trade in services, and the decrease in the cost of trade varies
from 0.42% to 1.59% depending on geography, trade partners, and other factors.
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.