Schengen Agreement in Europe
Description of Schengen Agreement
The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes schengen agreement in the following terms:  An accord to abolish border controls, first signed in 1985, and fleshed out in 1990 into a detailed Convention, the Schengen Agreement was anintergovernmental instrument. As such it was not originally part of Community law. The initial signatories were Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and The Netherlands, but by the time the Convention finally came into force in 1995 Italy, Portugal and Spain had signed up, followed by Greece and Austria. Meanwhile, the Nordic Council was negotiating to merge its own passport-free zone with the Schengen area, bringing Norway and Iceland into the Conventionalongside Denmark, Finland and Sweden.
The Schengen Agreement had suffered a troubled passage (see more in this European encyclopedia). The UK (with which Ireland has a passport pact) always stood aloof, anxious about terrorism, organised crime and illegal immigration. So many countries failed to ratify the Agreement that deadlines were missed in 1990, 1992 and 1993. Francereimposed border controls with Belgium in 1995 to guard against alleged Dutch laxity over drug traffic. Italy, Greece and Austria were long unable to satisfy other member states that they had adequately strengthened their frontier controls. Libertarians and law enforcement agencies, from their differing standpoints, raised questions over asylum, extradition, exchange of personal data, hot pursuit, visa, tax evasion and the policing of external frontiers.
The meshing of the Agreement with the EU’s Treaties, to reflect the ‘free movement of persons’ provisions of the Treaty of Rome, was largely dealt with by the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam. This brought Schengen within the acquis communautaire through a protocol, from which the UK (again with Ireland) was exempted, under the new ‘flexibility’ provisions of the Treaty. Confusingly, part of Schengen’s subject matter (visa, asylum and immigration) was brought into the EU’s first ‘pillar’, the EC Treaty, while the rest was brought into the third ‘pillar’, the Justice and Home Affairs section of the Treaty on European Union. This necessitated further protocols to cover the opt-outs of the UK, Ireland and (in part) Denmark.
From 1998 to 2000 a massive influx of refugees, Kurds escaping Turkish or Iraqi oppression, Bosnians and Kosovars fleeing from Serbian troops, others from Eastern Europe and North Africa, led to widespread criticism of the EU’s border-free policies. There were fears that illegal immigrants and ‘economic refugees’ would swamp genuine applicants for asylum, finding soft entry points from which to transit easily to countries with generous welfare systems, such as Germany and the UK. Some 15 years after its inauguration as a liberalising measure, the Schengen acquis was also proving a breeding ground for popular resentment. (See also Asylum.)
Notas y References
- Based on the book “A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union from Aachen to Zollverein”, by Rodney Leach (Profile Books; London)