Schengen Area
Schengen area

Free Schengen area – What is that?

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Tempo di lettura: 2 minuti

Originally, the concept of free movement was to enable the European “citizens” to freely travel and settle in any European Member State, but it fell short of abolishing border controls within the Union.

First of all, Schengen is an agreement signed in 1985 in Schengen (a small village in Luxembourg), then an area with unique features. The agreement act led most of the EU countries towards the abolishment of their national borders, in order to build a Europe without inner borders.

For this reason, we refer to this as the “Schengen Area”.

Signed in Luxemburg by five EU countries, the agreement remains, up until now, one of the world’s biggest areas that have ended border control between member countries. The agreement was followed by the signing of the Convention implementing that Agreement in 1990. The implementation of the Schengen Agreements started in 1995, initially involving seven EU countries.


schengen countries EU area

Consequently, the free-border Schengen Area guarantees free movement to millions of EU citizens.

The free movement “status” of people enables each EU citizen to travel, work and live in an EU country without special formalities.

Schengen underpins this freedom by enabling citizens to move around the Schengen Area without being subject to border checks.

Today, the Schengen Area encompasses most EU countries, except for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania. Furthermore, non-EU States such as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have joined.

Schengen countries listTo explain it easier:

  • Any city dweller, no matter the nationality, may cross an internal border within the Schengen area without being checked. This means, for instance, a Spanish national is allowed to enter (the reasons are not important here) in Germany freely.
  • A Schengen country may exceptionally reintroduce border controls if there is a serious threat to public policy or internal security. If so, the Member State concerned must inform other Schengen countries, The Parliament, European Commission as well as the public. Europeans experienced this procedure when the pandemic started roughly in February 2020.

Freedom and security for travellers:

The Schengen provisions provide a single set of rules for controls at the external borders applicable to those who enter the Schengen area for a short period of time (up to 90 days). Indeed, the Schengen area relies on common rules and cover in particular the following areas:

  • crossing the EU external borders, including the types of visa needed,
  • harmonisation of the conditions of entry and of the rules on short stay visas (up to 90 days),
  • cross-border police cooperation (including rights of cross-border surveillance and hot pursuit),
  • stronger judicial cooperation through a faster extradition system and the transfer of enforcement of criminal judgments,

The Schengen Information System (SIS) , It is a supporting system for the Schengen Area safety. It is used as a tool in order to exchange data between EU Member States regarding suspected criminals, individuals who might not have the right to enter and illegal residents, stolen, misappropriated or lost assets, as well as missing people. Furthermore, the SIS makes possible the collaboration between different security bodies of the EU Member States.

Schengen Area – Documents needed for travelling in Europe.

Therefore, it is now easy to think that for entering and traveling throughout this “free area” if a national is not European needs a particular document to stay. Thus, this formality is the “Schengen Visa”, an authorization to enter the Schengen territory through the Member State that granted the visa. It permits its holder to stay in the Schengen territory for a maximum of 90 days within six months. It is similar to the USA VISA, in terms of concept.

There are several Schengen VISA types depending on the applicant’s purpose. However, none of the Schengen visa types permits the holder to work in Europe. Long-term study, for example, is also not possible on a Schengen VISA.

Not all world citizens need a Schengen visa. Currently, nationals of 62 countries can enter the Schengen area visa free, and freely travel within the 26 member states.
The rest of the world’s citizens need to get a visa in order to enter the territory.

Certainly, being part of this “privileged space” is a sort of “status” that brings several benefits for citizens as well as for joining States.

For this reason, particular and detailed criteria are established for countries which want to join, and they must must fulfil a list of pre-conditions:

  • apply the common set of Schengen rules (the so-called “Schengen acquis”), e.g. regarding controls of land, sea and air borders (airports), issuing of visas, police cooperation and protection of personal data,
  • take responsibility for controlling the external borders on behalf of other Schengen countries and for issuing uniform Schengen visas,
  • efficiently cooperate with law enforcement agencies in other Schengen countries, to maintain a high level of security, once border controls between Schengen countries are abolished, connect to and use the Schengen Information System (SIS).

After this, applicant countries undergo a “Schengen evaluation” before joining the Schengen Area and periodically thereafter to ensure the correct application of the legislation.

External sources:

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Info Astrid Amodeo

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European citizen and Consular Agent. She has a diplomatic background and a degree in EU law. She began traveling abroad to study at the age of 14, knows seven foreign languages including Arabic and Russian, and is fluent in four of them. Committed to the EU and politics, Astrid writes for Liguria.Today and in each monthly appointment discusses a changing Europe, vast and complex but not difficult to be understood.

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