Schengen Agreement

The Schengen Convention 1995 abolishes the checks at internal borders of signatory States and creates a single external frontier, where checks for all the Schengen signatories are carried out in accordance with a common set of rules.

Accordingly, this freedom of movement without being submitted to checks at internal borders was accompanied by so-called compensatory measures. These measures involve setting a common visa regime, improving coordination between the police, customs and the judiciary and taking additional steps to combat problems such as terrorism and organised crime.

Be aware that under article 2.2 of the treaty, signatories may reinstate border controls for a short period, if this is necessary for national security reasons.

France did this around the 60th anniversary of D-Day in June 2004. Portugal reintroduced controls for the period of the 2004 European Football Championship, and Finland will do so for the 2005 World Athletics Championship in Helsinki in August 2005. France has again re-imposed border controls in the wake of the bombings and attempted bombings on London in July 2005.

In particular, the EU Member States applying the Schengenacquis, as well as Norway and Iceland, issue 'uniform short-stay visas' valid for travelling in the whole Schengen area.

The Schengenacquisis the set of rules adopted under the Schengen Convention, which includes: the convention itself and the 1985 agreement; the accession protocols with Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Austria, Denmark, Finland and Sweden; and the decisions and declarations adopted by the Schengen bodies.

It is now part of the EU institutional and legal framework and countries applying to join the EU will have to fulfil its requirements. Amongst the key rules adopted by Schengen group members are:

  • removal of checks on persons at common EU internal borders;
  • common set of rules applying to people crossing EU external frontiers, regardless of the EU country in which that external frontier is situated;
  • separation at air terminals and, where possible, at seaports of people travelling within the Schengen area from those arriving from countries outside the Schengen area;
  • harmonisation of the rules regarding conditions of entry and visas for short stays;
  • coordination between administrations on surveillance of borders (liaison officers, harmonisation of instructions and staff training);
  • definition of the role of carriers in the fight against illegal immigration;
  • enhanced police cooperation (including the rights of cross-border surveillance and hot pursuit);
  • strengthening of judicial cooperation through a faster extradition system and transfer of the enforcement of criminal judgments;
  • creation of the Schengen information system (SIS).

Ireland and the United Kingdom never signed up to the Schengen Convention and have thus not ended border controls with other EU Member States, although they will participate, in the future, in those aspects of Schengen that entail cooperation between police forces and the judiciary. For this reason, EU citizens, as well as third-country nationals, still have to show their passports when travelling between the UK or Ireland and the rest of the EU (although not between Ireland and the UK, which together with the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man constitute a common travel area for which passports are not needed).

Although Denmark has signed the Schengen Agreement, it can choose within the EU framework whether or not to apply any new decision taken under the agreement.

Schengen Convention Signatories

EU States
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden

The 10 countries which joined the EU in 2004 have signed the Convention applying the Schengen Agreement, and will fully implement it in 2007. Cyprus, Czech Rep, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia

Non EU States
Iceland, Norway, Switzerland

Schengen Agreement