Today, the European Commission is presenting a new Strategy to make the largest free travel area in the world – the Schengen area – stronger and more resilient.
The Schengen area is home to more than 420 million people across 26 countries. The removal of internal border controls between Schengen States is an integral part of the European way of life: almost 1.7 million people reside in one Schengen State and work in another. People have built their lives around the freedoms offered by the Schengen area, with 3.5 million people crossing between Schengen States every day.
The free flow of people, goods and services is at the heart of the European Union and is key for Europe's recovery following the coronavirus crisis. With today's Strategy, the Commission takes stock of the challenges faced by the Schengen area in recent years, and sets out a path forward that maintains the benefits of Schengen. Common action is needed at Union level for Member States to cope with today's challenges.
Underpinning the well-functioning of the Schengen area are three pillars:
To foster mutual trust in the implementation of the Schengen rules, the Commission is also presenting today a proposal to revise the Schengen evaluation and monitoring mechanism.
The Strategy aims to:
A revised evaluation mechanism for enhanced trust
To foster common trust in the implementation of the Schengen rules and make sure any deficiencies are identified and remedied quickly, the Commission is proposing today to revise the Schengen evaluation and monitoring mechanism. Changes include accelerating the evaluation process as well as a fast-track procedure in case of significant deficiencies that could put Schengen as a whole at risk. There will also be more political focus on Schengen evaluations as their results will be included in the annual report on the State of Schengen and discussed with the European Parliament and the Council. The revised mechanism includes enhanced monitoring for the respect of fundamental rights.
36 years ago, 5 Member States agreed to remove border controls between themselves. Today, the Schengen area without controls at internal borders is home to over 420 million people in 26 European States. The Schengen area is composed of all EU countries except Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Cyprus and Ireland. It also includes four non-EU countries: Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Schengen rules require an update to adapt them to evolving challenges. To build a more resilient Schengen area, President von der Leyen announced in her State of the Union address in September last year that the Commission would put forward a new strategy for the future of Schengen.
This Strategy is based on extensive consultations with Members of the European Parliament and Home Affairs Ministers meeting within the Schengen Forum in November 2020 and May 2021.