Schengen Cooperation and External Borders Control

The Schengen cooperation encompasses the cooperation of states within the Schengen area – this territory comprises states where border controls are not conducted at their common (internal) borders.

Border controls are concentrated at external Schengen borders (land borders, international airports and seaports) and are accompanied by close cooperation in other areas (for instance, in the context of police cooperation, visa and consular practices, data protection and access to the common Schengen Information System (SIS). The SIS is a database used primarily to search for persons and property in the Schengen area). This cooperation replaces the abolished internal border controls.

The Schengen cooperation dates back to 1985, when France, Germany and the Benelux countries signed the Schengen Agreement and, five years later, the Schengen Implementing Convention, which extended the Agreement and made it more concrete. These documents were gradually developed by other legal acts called the Schengen acquis, applicable to all Member States (with agreed exceptions). At the end of 2007, there was an unprecedented expansion of the Schengen area from 15 to 24 Member States.

Following the removal of controls at the European Union’s internal borders, people can move around freely throughout the EU/Schengen area. As a result, security in the EU needs to be guaranteed and the external borders must be protected all the more rigorously. A key role in the integrated management of external borders is played by the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders (Frontex).

In 2007 the European Patrols Network started operating, primarily along the southern coastal borders and Rapid Border Intervention Teams were set up. A European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) is also being formed.

Visa Policy

The EU has been intensively involved in visa policy matters since 1999, when the Treaty of Amsterdam (moving visa affairs to the EU level) entered into force. The introduction of a joint visa scheme, in the form of the uniform Schengen visa authorising the holder to move freely throughout the Schengen area, reflects the harmonisation of the visa policy of states in the EU (or more specifically in the Schengen area).

In the area of visa policy the key moment for the Czech Presidency will be the launching of the Visa Information System (VIS) that will contain data of all applicants for Schengen visas. During the Presidency, adoption of a document about the harmonisation of rules on issuing visas, the so-called Visa Code, is expected, as well as of the amended Common Consular Instructions.

As regards visa policy towards third countries, the EU also has common rules for establishing the black list of countries whose citizens should have a visa to  enter the EU and the white list of countries whose citizens are exempt from this requirement. There is an ongoing dialogue with the Western Balkan countries about visa liberalisation based on the evaluation and performance of certain criteria according to the so-called road maps, which should eventually lead to the lifting of the visa requirement. Concerning visa facilitation the Czech Presidency will seek to complete the negotiations and achieve the adoption of individual agreements between the European Community and Georgia and between the European Community and Cape Verde.

Last update: 16.8.2011 16:02

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