The Schengen Agreement and Norway

Photo: EC Audiovisual Service.Photo: EC Audiovisual Service

The Schengen Agreement was negotiated by France, Germany and the Benelux countries during the 80s and the 90s. The agreement has its name from the Luxembourgish township of Schengen, where it was signed in 1985. The purpose of the Schengen cooperation is to ensure the free movement of persons and goods between the member states. Since 2001 Norway has been integrated in Schengen.

The Schengen Agreement was integrated in the EU through the Amsterdam Treaty. Consequently, Norway entered a special agreement with the EU, specifying the institutional framework concerning Norway’s continued Schengen participation. The Amsterdam Treaty from 1997/99 states the EUs goal of becoming an area of freedom, security and justice. The Schengen cooperation is one of the operative measures to achieve this goal.

Even though some people might think that the Schengen-cooperation permits passport-free travels within Europe, this is not exactly the case. Travellers from the member states in the Schengen area must be able to identify themselves on request from the authorities in the country they are staying, For some countries the only id-document being recognised abroad is the passport.

A challenge arising from the Schengen cooperation is that it also allows criminals and illegal immigrants to travel freely across borders without being checked. Compensatory measures have been introduced to improve police cooperation and judicial cooperation among the member countries. The most important initiative was the creation of the Schengen Information System (SIS) which is a common data base for information exchange about wanted and/or missing person.

Norway’s participation
Norway and Iceland have an agreement (Switzerland and Liechtenstein have a similar agreement) with the EU, making them associated with the Schengen Acquis. To ensure full participation by the associated states a specially designated institution, the Mixed Committee, has been established and takes place in the margins of the normal council meetings on all levels. The Mixed Committee allows the four associated non-EU countries to  participate at all levels of the Schengen cooperation.

The abolition of border controls with Norway was introduced in March 2001. This was at the same time as the border controls were abolished between the countries already in Schengen and the other Nordic countries – Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

Participation in the Schengen-cooperation
In December 2007, the Schenge area was enlarged and nine of the newest EU member states joined the Schengen area, which now includes 25 countries.  These are the 22 EU member states – Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden – plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. Switzerland’s joined the Schengen-area in December 2008.    

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