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Brussels, 16 September 2011
Factsheet: What is Schengen?
A tangible, popular and successful achievement of the European Union
On 14 June 1985, five EU countries – Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – began the process of further developing European integration by removing border controls.
The Schengen Area has grown rapidly, both geographically and in terms of the number of people benefiting from free movement. Today, over 400 million Europeans from 25 European countries enjoy passport-free travel across the area.
The two fundamental agreements which originally shaped the opening of borders within the EU are:
These agreements, as well as related agreements and rules dealing with visa policy, police and judicial cooperation, and the return of irregular migrants, have been integrated into the framework of the European Union by the Treaty of Amsterdam of 2 October 1997
The “Schengen Acquis” and its development since the integration into the framework of the European Union is therefore binding law for participating Member States.
An area of cooperation with 42 673 km of sea and 7 721 km of land borders
With the removal of internal border controls, Member States have a responsibility to control their external borders on behalf of the other Schengen countries. This requires extensive cooperation and high standards, with a framework of binding rules for all countries involved. The Schengen acquis thus covers several areas like:
A common European good based on trust and solidarity
Europeans take advantage of their free movement rights every day. They make over 1.25 billion journeys as tourists every year and can visit friends and relatives all over Europe without obstacles at internal borders. Moreover an area without internal border controls brings huge benefits to the economy. Between 2004 and 2007, the boost to labour mobility from new countries joining the EU increased the Union’s gross domestic product by almost a third of a percent or around €40 billion.
The construction of the Schengen area means that one Member State controls its section of the external borders on behalf of all the others, who have to trust each other.
As part of the Schengen cooperation, the EU also proposes financial and practical support to ensure freedom and security for travellers. For example: