Marking the 31st anniversary of the Schengen Agreement, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos said:
"Schengen is one of the most cherished achievements of European integration. On today's anniversary, we are reminded of the daily importance and benefits of the Schengen Area without internal borders for both European citizens and businesses. That is why the Commission is committed to safeguarding a Europe without internal border controls in the common interest of all European citizens.
In recent months, Schengen has been severely tested by the migration crisis which exposed certain deficiencies at our external borders, resulting in the introduction of temporary internal border controls by a few Schengen countries.
However, temporary border controls not only hamper the free movement of our citizens, they also come with significant economic costs. According to our estimates, a full re-establishment of border controls within the Schengen Area would generate immediate direct costs for the EU economy of between €5 and €18 billion annually.
That is why it is essential to restore the normal functioning of the Schengen Area as soon as possible, as outlined by the Commission in the Back to Schengen Roadmap. At the same time, we have to better manage our external borders. For this, the Commission's proposal for a European Border and Coast Guard – presented in December – needs to be adopted by Member States without delay so that it can start functioning during the summer already. Protecting our common external borders must be a shared responsibility.
Our aim is to return to the normal functioning of the Schengen Area and the lifting of all internal border controls related to the migratory crisis by the end of 2016 at the latest. We expect Member States to pull together in the common interest to safeguard one of the Union's crowning achievements and defining features."
The Schengen Agreement was signed on 14 June 1985 and marked the start of the process that abolished internal border controls between Member States. The original signatories of the Schengen Agreement were Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It was integrated into the legal framework of the EU with the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999. The present-day Schengen Area covers all the EU Member States – except the UK, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia – as well as the Schengen associated countries Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Apart from abolishing the controls at the internal borders, the Schengen cooperation created common rules covering checks at the external borders, harmonised the conditions of entry and the rules on visas for short stays, enhanced police cooperation and strengthened the cooperation between judicial authorities.
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