The Schengen treaty is an agreement originally signed on June 14, 1985, by five European Union countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France and Germany). The agreement was signed aboard the ship Princesse Marie-Astrid on the Moselle River, near Schengen, a small town in Luxembourg on the border with France and Germany.
Its goal was to end border checkpoints and controls within the Schengen area and harmonize external border controls. It was created outside the European Union (then European Community) framework, because of the failure to achieve unanimity in this subject among all of the countries of the European Community.
Blue: Schengen treaty members
Grey: Signatories (not yet applied)
On June 19, 1990 the above countries (Germany, France and the Benelux nations) signed a further document called the Schengen Convention (or more fully Convention applying the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 between the governments of the states of the Benelux Economic Union, the Federal Republic of Germany, and the French Republic on the gradual abolition of checks at their common borders).
Additional countries have since also joined the convention, making the full number of signatories twenty-six:
- November 27, 1990 - Italy
- June 25, 1992 - Spain, Portugal
- November 6, 1992 - Greece
- April 28, 1995 - Austria
- December 19, 1996 - Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland
- May 1, 2004 - Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia (not yet implemented)
- October 16, 2004 -- Switzerland (see note below)
Switzerland has not yet fully ratified the treaty. While it has been ratified in parliament, the people now have time to collect 50,000 signatures until 31 March 2005 to force a referendum to be held on the issue on 5 June 2005.
First full implementation began with seven member states in July 1995 -- the initial five nations plus Spain and Portugal. Other nations followed likewise:
- 1997 - Austria and Italy implement the treaty. Greece implements theoretically but in practice internal border controls continue until 2000.
- 2000 - Greece becomes a fully fledged Schengen country, abolishing internal border controls.
- 2001 - On March 25, 2001 Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland implement the Schengen treaty.
The ten newest members of the European Union won't implement the treaty before 2006 or later, with the date of application set for every country independently from the others -- therefore currently only fifteen countries can be said to be full members of the Schengen Treaty.
On May 19, 2004, the European Commission announced in consequence of talks between European and Swiss officials that it expected Switzerland to join the Schengen treaty within the next three years. Switzerland signed the agreement to join Schengen on October 16 of the same year.
All Schengen countries except Norway, Iceland and Switzerland are European Union members. Two EU members (Ireland and the United Kingdom) have opted to remain outside the Schengen area.
A protocol attached to the Treaty of Amsterdam incorporated the developments brought about by the Schengen agreement into the European Union framework. Among other things the Council of Ministers took the place of the Executive Committee which had been created under the Schengen agreement.
The islands of Helgoland (Germany) are outside the Schengen area.
For citizens of countries not party to the Schengen treaty restrictions exist that govern the length of ones stay within the combined union. The general rule stipulates a maximum 90-day stay within a 180-day period beginning from the first day of entry. One may leave and return a number of times within the 180-day period but the combined stay within the region must total no more than 90 days.
- Schengen Countries (http://www.eurovisa.info/SchengenCountries.htm) (source for this article)
- Switzerland joins Schengen (http://www.euobserver.com/?sid=22&aid=17643)