Due to its exceptional geographical location, Schengen is not only the point of intersection of three countries but actually of five countries if one considers Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands (Benelux) as an economic unit. In 1985 and 1990, Schengen became the place where the Schengen Agreement was signed, and today it is a key component of the European policy.
On 19 June 1985, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands signed an agreement in Schengen on board the pleasure boat MS “Princess Marie-Astrid” on the gradual abolition of border controls between the contracting parties.
Signatories to the agreement:
For Luxembourg, State Secretary Robert Goebbels
For the Netherlands, State Secretary Wim F. van Eekelen
For France, State Secretary Catherine Lalumière
For Germany, State Secretary Waldemar Schreckenberger
For Belgium, State Secretary Paul de Keersmaeker
On 19 June 1990, the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement (Schengen Convention) was signed. The Convention provides for compensatory measures to ensure a single area of security and justice following the abolition of internal border controls.
In particular, they include the following:
- standardizing the provisions concerning the entry and short-term stay of foreigners in the “Schengen area” (uniform Schengen visa);
- asylum (determination of the Member State responsible for processing the asylum application);
- measures to combat cross-border drug trafficking;
- police cooperation (prosecution) and
- mutual legal assistance.
In 1990, the signatories were:
- For Luxembourg: Georges Wohlfart
- For the Netherlands: Piet Dankert
- For France: Edith Cresson
- For Germany: Lutz Stavenhagen
- For Belgium: Paul de Keersmaeker
The Schengen Agreement entered into force on 1 September 1993, but it was not until 26 March 1995, when its provisions were applied in practice, i.e., when the necessary technical and legal conditions were established (for example, creating databases and the necessary authorities to ensure the protection of personal data), that it was first “put into force” among the Parties to the Schengen Agreement and Spain and Portugal. Since 1995, Italy, Greece, Austria, Denmark, Finland and Sweden joined the Agreement, but the three Scandinavian countries entered into force only on 25 March 2001. In 1996, Schengen cooperation agreements were signed with the members of the Nordic Passport Union that were not part of the European Union (Norway and Iceland). The full application of the Schengen agreements was also expected on 25 March 2001 for Norway and Iceland.
Since 21 December 2007, the following countries have become part of the Schengen area: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Malta.
Switzerland has been officially a member of the Schengen area since 12 December 2008 and the Principality of Liechtenstein since 19 December 2011.
SCHENGEN AND THE EUROPEAN UNION
The Protocol integrating the Schengen acquis into the framework of the European Union, annexed to the Treaty of Amsterdam of 2 October 1997, made it possible to integrate Schengen cooperation into the European Union with effect from 1 May 1999.
The Schengen acquis (the Schengen Agreement and the regulations deriving from it) and its development were largely transferred to the competence of the European Community. Special provisions are provided for the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark: The United Kingdom and Ireland are not Parties of the Schengen Agreement; they may, with the agreement of the Council of the European Union, adopt all or part of the Schengen acquis and participate in its development. Denmark decides on a case-by-case basis whether it will participate in the development of the acquis on the basis of international law and whether it will implement in its national law the Community law adopted without its participation.
The cooperation agreements between the Schengen countries and Norway and Iceland were replaced, on the basis of the Treaty of Amsterdam, by association agreements with the European Union of very similar content.
For EU citizens and non-EU nationals living in Europe, the Schengen Agreement provides for visibly freer movement with greater security within the Schengen area and at the external borders.