35 years ago, five EU countries agreed to abolish their common borders in the Luxembourgish town of Schengen granting freedom of movement for millions of citizens.
Today, Schengen allows 420 million people move freely between 27 countries.
The concept for free movement between the European countries is very old and it can be found through the middle ages. Whereas, in modern times this idea was discoursed ever since Europe suffered detriment resulted from the 2nd World War. However, concrete actions in this regard only took place during 80s, as the Europe was stuck inside an everlasting debate of two opposing fragments: the one that was supporting the idea of free Europe with no internal border checks amongst countries, and the other part that was absolutely against it.
France and Germany are the two pioneering countries to take initial step as regards of free movement concept, steps that were even more concrete, as they commonly agreed to move this over-debated concept into a next level. These two countries on 17 June 1984 were the first ones to bring out the above mentioned topic within the framework of the European Council in Fontainebleau where they all approved to define required conditions for the free movement of citizens.
As a final point of this journey, what it came to be “The Schengen Agreement” – covering the gradual abolishment of the internal borders between countries and an extended control of the external borders, was only signed on 14 June 1985. The Agreement was signed by the five (5) following European countries: France, Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg, and Netherlands, in Schengen, a small village in Southern Luxemburg on the river Moselle.
Five years later, on 19 June 1990, a Convention was signed for the concrete implementation of the Schengen Agreement. This convention covered issues on abolition of internal border controls, definition of procedures for issuing a uniform visa, operation of a single database for all members known as SIS – Schengen Information System as well as the establishment of a cooperating structure between internal and immigration officers.
This way, Schengen Area concept experienced an incessant expansion, as on 27 November 1990 Italy, on 25 June 1991 Portugal and Spain and on 6 November 1992 Greece joined.
Despite that Schengen Agreement – including treaties and rules were established, the real implementation of the Schengen Area finally started on 26 March 1995, where seven Schengen member countries: France, Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain decided to abolish their internal border checks.
Since then, the Schengen Area breathed a fast developing and expanding trend. Thus, on 28 April 1995 Austria, on 19 December 1996 Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden were new five countries to join. On the other hand, led by sample of seven aforementioned countries, in October Italy and in December 1997 Austria abolished their internal border controls.
Another major progress shown by the Schengen Agreement was when in May 1999 “The Treaty of Amsterdam” incorporated the agreement inside the legal framework of the European Union, as in the past the Schengen treaties and rules set by the agreement were not part of the European Union and were operating autonomously.
The enlargement of the Schengen Area continued its prosperous journey as in January 2000 Greece and March 2001 Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, on 16 April 2003 Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia and in October 2004 Switzerland were the new fifteen countries (15) that joined. This successful story did not end there, as in December 2007 the same nations declared the abolishment of their land and sea, and in March 2008 of the airport border controls.
In February 2008, Liechtenstein was the 26th and the last country so far to sign the Schengen Agreement and become part of the Schengen Area.
In December 2008, Switzerland abolished land and in March 2009, the airport border controls.
The latest important event towards the implementation of the Schengen Agreement was in December 2011 when after three years of signing the Schengen Agreement Liechtenstein declared its internal border control abolishment.
Guy Verhofstadt – Facebook / SchengenVisaInfo