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Schengen enlargement : background

21 December 2007
by eub2 -- last modified 21 December 2007

On 14th June 1985, the Governments of Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands signed an agreement at Schengen, a small town in Luxembourg, with a view to enabling "all nationals of the Member States to cross internal borders freely" and to enable the "free circulation of goods and services".


The five founding countries signed the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement on 19th June 1990, and were later joined by Italy on 27th November 1990, Spain and Portugal on 25th June 1991, Greece on 6th November 1992, Austria on 28th April 1995 and Denmark, Sweden and Finland on 19th December 1996.

Norway and Iceland also concluded a Co-operation Agreement with the Member States on 19th December 1996 in order to join this Convention.

Subsequently, as of 26th of March 1995, the Schengen acquis was fully applied in Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, in Austria and Italy as of 31st of March 1998 and in Greece as of 26th of March 2000. Finally, as of 25th of March 2001 the Schengen acquis was applicable in full in Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

The Schengen acquis was incorporated into the legal framework of the European Union by means of protocols attached to the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999. A Council Decision was adopted on 12th May 1999, determining the legal basis for each of the provisions or decisions, which constitute the Schengen acquis, in conformity with the relevant provisions of the Treaty establishing the European Community and the Treaty on European Union.

Schengen evaluation of new Members States

Experts from the Member States carried out the so-called "Schengen evaluation" of the new Member States during the last two years. 58 evaluation missions covering data protection, police co-operation, external border controls at land, sea and air borders, and visa policy were undertaken in 2006. In 2007, 15 re-evaluation visits were carried out, together with a new sea and air border evaluation. Nine Schengen Information System evaluation visits were completed.

Although experts from the Commission also participated in these evaluations, the responsibility for evaluation remains with the Council.

This evaluation consisted in particular of verifying that the accompanying measures allowing for the lifting of internal border control are correctly and efficiently applied by the new Member States. Evaluation visits were carried out in the field of external border control, visa, data protection, police cooperation and the Schengen Information System.

The Schengen evaluation has now been completed and it has become evident that Estonia, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia have been proven to correctly apply the Schengen acquis in all fields.

The procedure

Schengen evaluations of EU Member States that are candidates for the lifting of internal border controls are initiated upon request from each Member State concerned, once it considers that it meets all preconditions. It is the responsibility of the States that are already Schengen members to determine that all the preconditions are met and the Council is responsible for carrying out the evaluations.

The calendar

  • 5th November 2004 - The conclusions of The Hague European Council requested the Council, the Commission and Member States “to take all necessary measures to allow the abolition of controls at internal borders as soon as possible, provided all requirements to apply the Schengen acquis have been fulfilled (...)"

Nine of the States that became members of the EU in 2004 (Hungary, Poland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta) declared to be ready to be evaluated on non-SIS related acquis as of 2006.

  • January - October 2006 - Visits on data protection, police cooperation, external borders and visa have started end of January and were finalised.
  • December 2006 – Upon completion of the evaluation in all areas of Schengen cooperation, Council conclusions were adopted on the state of preparedness of Member States participating in the evaluation exercise. These Conclusions indicated the weaknesses detected and a list of places to be revisited in 2007 in each country.
  • October 2007 - Following these conclusions, the recommended revisits took place in the 2007 and were accomplished in October. The evaluation of application of SIS in the new Member States took place in September and October 2007.
  • 8-9 November 2007 - The Justice and Home Affairs Council concluded that all preconditions for the lifting of internal border control with the above mentioned Member States are fulfilled.
  • 6 December 2007, the Council adopted a Decision and the date of lifting of internal border controls.
  • 21st of December 2007 (00.00h): lifting of internal border controls at land borders and sea borders.
  • 30 March 2008 lifting of internal border controls at airports.

Key findings of the evaluations

After the completion of the evaluation visits in December 2006 based on the evaluation reports for each area of evaluation, a first set of conclusions were made on the state of preparedness of the evaluated countries. Furthermore, in cases where weaknesses were severe or construction works were insufficiently advanced, revisits to these places were requested. A list of places (mainly the airports and border crossing points) for such revisits was prepared for each country.

The revisits conducted in the 2007 showed substantial progress in all revisited areas.

The Member States concerned showed that they are sufficiently prepared to apply both the nonSIS-related provisions of the Schengen acquis as well as its SIS-related provisions in a satisfactory manner. On this basis, there were no remaining obstacles to taking the Decision referred to in Article 3(2) of the 2003 Act of Accession in December 2007 allowing the lifting of internal border controls at the land and sea borders as of 21 December 2007 and at air borders as of 30 March 2008.

The Schengen facility

Under Article 35 (1) of 2003 Act of Accession, a temporary instrument called the “Schengen Facility” was created to support Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia between 1 May 2004 and the end of 2006 to finance actions at the new EU external borders for the implementation of the Schengen Acquis and external border control (€ 961 million).

The Schengen Facility has been used for actions related mainly to investments in operating equipment and border infrastructure at the EU external border, upgrading of diplomatic and consular representations, preparations for the Schengen Information System (SIS II) and Visa Information System (VIS), operational and language training.

Breakdown of Schengen Facility funding:

In € mln
Total 2004-06

The Schengen Facility will also be applied for implementation of Schengen acquis in Bulgaria and Romania implementation of the Schengen acquis. Ultimately, as of 2007 considerable financial assistance is being provided by the European External Borders Fund (€ 1820 million for 2007-2013).

Schengen enlargement: Figures

  • The length of the external border of the new Schengen Member States.

External land borders:

Member State
External land border with
Length in km


External maritime borders

External maritime border in
Length in km
Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
Mediterranean Sea
Baltic Sea

  • The total population in the Schengen area: The total population of the 24 Schengen Member States is 404.921.039 (Estimation: Eurostat 2007).
  • Period of evaluation: 2 years (2006-2007)
  • Number of evaluation missions in 2006: 58 - covering data protection, police co-operation, external border controls at land, sea and air borders
  • Number of evaluation missions in 2007: 15 - mainly re-evaluation visits, together with a new sea and air border evaluation.
  • 9 Schengen Information System evaluation visits completed in 2007.

Q & A: Schengen enlargement – Abolition of internal border control

Which "new" Member States will join the Schengen area at the end of this year?

The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia.

Which Member States already belong to the Schengen area?

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the two associated countries Norway and Iceland.

When will Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria join the Schengen area?

These Member States are not in the wave of Member States which are joining the Schengen area at the end of December. These Member States still have to go through the Schengen evaluation before being able to join the Schengen area. The exact timing cannot be predicted at this stage.

When will the lifting of internal border control take place?

The date for the lifting of internal border control is 21.12.2007 for land and sea-borders and 30.3.2008 for air borders.

What is the impact of the Schengen enlargement for citizens?

At the internal borders:

All persons who enter the Schengen area legally are allowed to cross internal borders with, and between, the new Schengen Member States without border checks. Internal borders are land borders between the Member States, airports for flight connections between the Schengen States and seaports for regular ferry connections between the Schengen States.

It should be noted that the abolition of internal border checks does not affect the exercise of police powers even within internal border zones.

In the Schengen area:

Third country nationals submitted to the visa obligation (Regulation EC/539/2001 amended by Regulation EC/453/2003 and EC/1932/2006) can travel with one Schengen visa within the whole Schengen area and no longer need to apply for a national visa for the new Member States.

Third country nationals who are in possession of a valid residence permit (see Official Journal of the European Union C 247 of 13.10.2006 and Official Journal C 153 of 6.7.2007) issued by a Schengen Member State can travel on the basis of that valid residence permit and do not need to apply for a visa.

Can a person travel within the Schengen area without carrying a passport or other travel documents?

Member States can request persons to hold or carry documents while on their territory. Such obligations will be published within the coming weeks in the Official Journal.

The abolition of internal border checks does not affect the exercise of security checks on persons carried out at ports and airports.

What are the entry conditions for third country nationals?

Being in possession of

  • a valid passport or travel document
  • a valid Schengen visa, if required, - a residence permit issued by a Schengen Member State has an equivalent effect to a Schengen visa
  • having sufficient means for the intended stay
  • not be designated for the purpose of refusing entry
  • not be considered as a threat to public policy, internal security, public health or international relations.

As far as these entry conditions are concerned, there are no changes involved for third country nationals when they cross the external border of one of the new Schengen Member States, except that they will be also be checked against the Schengen Information System, and not only against national systems. Indeed, the new Member States have been applying the Schengen rules on checks at external borders from the date of accession.

EU citizens are allowed to enter the territory of EU Member States on presentation of a valid passport or ID card unless the person constitutes a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat to public policy or public security.


The price of a short stay visa is € 60. In individual cases, the price may be reduced or waived in accordance with national law when this measure serves to promote cultural interests, in the field of foreign policy, development policy or other area of vital public interest.

Source: European Commission

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