Press Release: 19 December 2011
As of today, Liechtenstein is the latest country to become a Member of the Schengen area, the zone without controls at internal borders. Over 400 million Europeans from 26 European countries now enjoy passport-free travel across the Schengen area.
"The Schengen Area has grown rapidly, allowing for increasing numbers of European citizens and third country visitors to enjoy free movement across more and more countries. With Liechtenstein joining today, we are further developing one of the most cherished achievements of the EU", said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs.
From now on, checks on persons will be abolished at the borders with Liechtenstein, which will fully implement the Schengen rules.
Liechtenstein signed a Schengen association agreement with the European Union on 28 February 2008, the first step towards accession to the Schengen area.
The decision on lifting internal border controls was made by the Council of the European Union on 13 December 2011, after consulting the European Parliament and following an evaluation in the relevant areas (police cooperation, the Schengen Information System (SIS) and data protection) of the country's readiness for the full implementation of the Schengen rules.
Liechtenstein has been steadily integrating into the European trade area since its accession to the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1995 and is also part of the Single Market.
Today, the Schengen area comprises 26 Schengen Member States: the EU countries Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia as well as four associated non-EU countries, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and now Liechtenstein. Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus only partially apply the Schengen acquis at the moment and checks are therefore still carried out at the borders with these three Member States.
The two fundamental agreements which originally shaped the opening of borders within the EU are:
The Schengen Agreement of 1985 on the gradual abolition of checks at common borders (named after the small wine-making town in Luxembourg where it was signed).
The 1990 Convention which supplements the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 and lays down arrangements and safeguards for implementing the freedom of movement. It entered into force in 1995.
These agreements, as well as related agreements and rules dealing with visa policy, police and judicial cooperation, and the return of irregular migrants, were integrated into the framework of the European Union by the Treaty of Amsterdam of 2 October 1997.
The “Schengen Acquis” and its development since the integration into the framework of the European Union is therefore binding law for participating Member States.