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Schengen Area

The free movement of persons is a fundamental right guaranteed by the EU to its citizens. It entitles every EU citizen to travel, work and live in any EU country without special formalities. Schengen cooperation enhances this freedom by enabling citizens to cross internal borders without being subjected to border checks. The border-free Schengen Area guarantees free movement to more than 400 million EU citizens, as well as to many non-EU nationals, businessmen, tourists or other persons legally present on the EU territory.

Originally, the concept of free movement was to enable the European working population to freely travel and settle in any EU State, but it fell short of abolishing border controls within the Union. A break-through came in 1985 when cooperation between individual governments led to the signing, in Schengen (a small village in Luxembourg), of the Agreement on the gradual abolition of checks at common borders, followed by the signing in 1990 of the Convention implementing that Agreement. The implementation of the Schengen Agreements started in 1995, initially involving seven EU States. Born as an intergovernmental initiative, the developments brought about by the Schengen Agreements have now been incorporated into the body of rules governing the EU.

Today, the Schengen Area encompasses most EU States, except for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom. However, Bulgaria and Romania are currently in the process of joining the Schengen Area. Of non-EU States, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have joined the Schengen Area.

Any person, irrespective of nationality, may cross the internal borders without being subjected to border checks. However, the competent national authorities can carry out police checks also at the internal borders and in border areas, provided that such checks are not equivalent to border checks. This is valid for cases when, in particular, the checks do not have border control as an objective and are based on general police information and experience. It's also valid when the checks are carried out in a manner clearly distinct from systematic border checks and on the basis of spot-checks.

If there is a serious threat to public policy or internal security, a Schengen country may exceptionally temporarily reintroduce border control at its internal borders for, in principle, a limited period of no more than thirty days. If such controls are reintroduced, the other Schengen countries, the European Parliament and the Commission should be informed, as should the public.

Philippe de Villiers, the head of the conservative and eurosceptic Movement for France political party said that the French government should make important decisions to restore the sovereignty of France, to exit ‘Europe of Schengen.’ The deadly terrorist attacks in the French capital make real the possibility of the country’s exit from the Schengen Area since the agreement puts state security at risk, ‘granting’ armed terrorists unregulated border access, the head of the conservative and eurosceptic Movement for France political party said.

France is a part of the European Schengen Area, which does not impose internal border controls. Free travel within the bloc is a fundamental principle of the European Union. "The French government should make important decisions… to restore the sovereignty of France, to exit ‘Europe of Schengen.’ This terrorist attack emphasizes the final failure of the project, which Europeans called ‘the borderless zone,’" Philippe de Villiers stressed.

Under Schengen rules, a Schengen country is only allowed to restrict entry to its territory temporarily. Following a series of suicide bombings and shooting attacks across Paris on 13 November 2015, France restored systematic checks at its borders for security reasons.

One of Africa’s wealthiest men, Naguib Sawiris, proposed buying an island from either Greece or Italy to house refugees. Since Sawiris announced his plan in September 2015, it has moved forward. He announced he would like to begin accepting public donations and create a company to start the project. The Egyptian billionaire is looking for a Greek island that can house a large number of refugees. Sawiris said he wants the island to provide homes for between 100,000 and 200,000 refugees.

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Page last modified: 28-11-2015 19:13:00 ZULU