Whether you have the travel bug or are a geography buff, you may have heard about the Schengen Area. But what is the Schengen Area, and what countries are even included?
What is the Schengen Area?
The Schengen Area is a region made up of 26 European countries, all of which are signatories of the Schengen Agreement. This agreement, which was signed in 1985 but came into full force in 1995, created a single European territory without internal borders. The borders between these countries are still present on maps, but border control has largely been abolished within the Schengen Area.
The Schengen Agreement featured many terms, including the ability for citizens of these countries to travel within the Schengen Area without the need of a passport. It also allows citizens to move various services, goods, and products between countries. Individuals who are visiting the Schengen Area but are not a citizen of any participating country, can still move freely within the area but will need a Schengen Visa that must be signed when first entering the area.
Originally, only a small handful of countries signed the agreement in 1985. Those countries included France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Germany. In 1995, when the agreement came into effect, Spain and Portugal also signed. By 2009, the current 26 states that make up the Schengen Area had all joined.
In addition to citizens moving without a passport, the agreement also created a database to create a more unified and cohesive police force, and it allows police departments to work seamlessly together. The system, known as the Schengen Information System, provides information on citizens, goods, and other data.
There are times when a Schengen state may reinstate border controls with another Schengen country, often during times of possible security threats. When such risks arise, the country in question must notify the European Commission and consult with other Schengen states.
The Schengen Area covers 1,664,911 square miles, and is home to roughly 419,392,429 citizens.
Countries in the Schengen Area Include:
Is the Schengen Area Different Than the European Union?
While both the Schengen Area and the European Union involve European countries, they are vastly different. The Schengen Area basically operates as one whole country. You can travel between the countries without the need for a passport, there are no internal borders, and police work closely with one another.
The countries in the European Union are still their own distinct countries. They have their own police forces and military, and they enforce their own borders. They simply adhere to all legislature of the European Union. Additionally, a country must meet several economic and political conditions before it can be accepted into the European Union. This is known as the Copenhagen criteria.
The European Union was established in 1993 when the Maastricht Treaty was signed. There are currently 28 countries included in the EU, making the total population more than 500 million people. It is worth noting, however, that most countries in the Schengen Area are also in the EU.
Now, that you’ve learned something today, pull out your passport and start planning your next European adventure! Or stay put and play Sporcle quizzes instead.