Schengen Area

From CEOpedia | Management online

Schengen area owes its name to the Schengen Agreement that was signed in 1985 by heads of governments of five countries (Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany and Netherlands) in the city Schengen in Luxembourg. This agreement supported a gradual reduction of border controls between those countries. With the pace of time, it was incorporated into European law by Amsterdam Treaty. It initiated a remarkable form of cooperation among EU member states by creating an area without internal borders.

Member countries of the Schengen area

Currently the Schengen area consists of 26 countries[1]:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland (non-EU Schengen state)
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lichtenstein (non-EU Schengen state)
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway (non-EU Schengen state)
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland (non-EU Schengen state)

24 of those are EU member states but there are also 4 cooperating non-EU Schengen states. Thanks to this, currently the Schengen area covers over 4 mln km2 occupying the territory from Arctic to the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea.

Objectives of the Schengen area

Main objective of the Schengen area was ment to constitute a critical component in creation of a single market within European Union. It was clearly related to the assurance of four great freedoms, namely free movement of people, goods, services and capital. All of that has been achieved by the abolition of the internal border controls. In order to let citizens of Schengen states to feel safe, member countries are obliged to carry out harmonised strengthened controls at external borders of the Schengen area. They are carried out in accordance to a package of strictly-defined common rules. They apply, among others principles concerning visas, migrations and asylums. The absence of custom controls has facilitated numerous economic benefits for member countries as well as solved some labour-related problems, including labor shortage in several branches. The area of free movement not only offers its commuters better job profiles and income advantages but also increases the competitiveness of goods and services due to cheaper and faster transportation possibilities. What is more, tourism in the broad sense, is also supported by implementation of short-stay visas, that allow foreigners to stay and travel in the territory of Schengen states for no more than 90 days in 180-day period[2].

Main challenges concerning the Schengen area

Despite many advantages that Schengen area incurs, over the last few years there have appeared certain difficulties that this system has to deal with. Apparently, the most challenging one is the migration crisis that Europe is currently struggling with. Systematically in recent years a great number of migrants have requested protection in Europe. Those are the refugees of war coming from countries like Syria or Iraq but also economic migrants from Africa or Balkans willing to look for a better life and to benefit from the social aid programs that western countries offer. Border countries, which are firstly reached by migrants are obliged to register each of them in order to prevent the increase of criminals. In the recent years many of them reported that they are overwhelmed by the large number of applications in the absence of personnel and adequate technology. Additionally there have appeared some tensions between EU member states related to the allocation of migrants. All of that constitutes a serious threat for the idea of Schengen area and liberal principles on which it was created. Therefore one of the main programmes that European Union plans to implement is “smart borders“. Its main goal is to improve border controls and struggle irregular migration[3].


  1. European Commission (2020), Europe without borders – The Schengen area, Published by Migration and Home Affairs, p. 2
  2. M. Piechowicz (2017), Evolution of Schengen: an Example of Enhanced Cooperation and Differentiated Integration Model within the Area of Freedom Security and Justice, Published by Polish Political Science Yearbook, vol. 46 (1), p. 121–137
  3. C. E. Popa (2016), The Challenges of the Schengen Area, Published by Expert Journal of Economics, vol. 4 (1), p. 96-104


Author: Paulina Załubska