Last March, we explained Europe's Schengen free travel area in plain English, then published a map of which European countries had temporarily reintroduced border controls. We now present an updated and improved version of the border control map, reflecting several changes from the past five months.
|Map by Evan Centanni, from blank map by Ssolbergj. License: CC BY-SA|
Article by Evan Centanni
Changes to Schengen Border Controls Since MarchAs anyone who's visited Europe in recent decades knows, much of the continent is linked together as part of the "Schengen Area", a collection of countries that don't make travelers show any ID to cross back and forth across their borders (though this system is overseen by the European Union, the Schengen Area and the EU are not the same thing). But the system does allow countries to temporarily reintroduce border controls under certain circumstances.
With last year's spike in numbers of refugees and other immigrants arriving in Europe, many Schengen countries have rushed to control the flow of people by using these special temporary border controls. When we published our previous map of temporary Schengen border controls back in March, there were seven countries policing their borders with fellow Schengen members. Today there are only six, and there have been major changes to which borders are controlled:
Belgium's French Border Controls ExpireIn February, Belgium controversially declared an emergency reintroduction of controls along part of its border with France, which it claimed was necessary to limit flows of displaced people caused by the forced closure of a major refugee camp in France. Normally, emergency border controls have to be renewed every ten days, though Belgium announced from the outset that it planned to keep them for a whole month. However, in the end the country did respect the two-month renewal limit on emergency controls, letting them expire in late April.
Denmark Border Controls Expire, then are Reintroduced
|The full EU and prospective members|
However, Denmark followed that expiration immediately with a normal, non-emergency reintroduction of border controls, which it said were to deal with a "big influx of persons seeking international protection".
EU-brokered Compromise Aims to Stabilize SchengenAmid fears that the Schengen Area's dream of free travel was going down the drain, the foreign ministers of the EU's member countries met up and hashed out a compromise solution, which they published as an EU "recommendation" document on May 12. Though a lot of their recommendations involved telling Greece to try harder not to let refugees into Europe, they also came up with a plan to reduce the scope of the border controls by refocusing them on high-priority areas.
In exchange for keeping their controls for another six months (more than the normal maximum), five of the six remaining countries agreed to limit which parts of their borders they would police:
- Germany agreed to control only its border with Austria, ruling out border controls with Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark.
- Austria agreed to control only its borders with Slovenia and Hungary, ruling out border controls with Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.
- Denmark agreed to control only its border with Germany (including land crossings and ferry connections), ruling out border control for arrivals from Sweden or Norway.
- Sweden agreed to control only crossings over the bridge from Denmark and sea arrivals along its western and southern coastline, ruling out controls for land borders with Norway and Finland or arrivals by sea along its east-central and northern coasts.
- Norway agreed to control only arrivals in ports with ferry connections to Sweden, Denmark, and Germany, ruling out controls along its land borders with Sweden and Finland.
France's Border Controls ContinueThe sixth country, France, has continued to control all its borders - except, presumably, the boundary with tiny Monaco, which for immigration-control purposes is already treated as if it were within French borders. France has been policing all its borders since December 14, 2015, when it introduced border controls for security in the aftermath of the massive terror attacks in Paris.
In May 2016, when its border controls were nearing their six-month expiration date (the maximum allowed for any one purpose), France notified the EU that it was extending controls for two more months while it hosted the European soccer championship and the Tour de France cycling race (major sporting events are a normal reason for Schengen countries to temporarily reintroduce border controls).
Before the two months was up, France had experienced another episode of bloody terrorist violence, the July 14 attack in the city of Nice, and it used the resulting state of emergency as reasoning to declare another six months of border controls, to last until January 2017.
And One More: Temporary Border Controls in PolandAlthough the number of Schengen countries with reintroduced border controls fell to six after Belgium's expired, for one month since our last update there were again seven of them. Poland implemented a routine reintroduction of controls on all its borders from July 4 to August 2, for security during a NATO summit and a Catholic Church "World Youth Day" event that featured a visit from Pope Francis.
The EU's official Temporary Introduction of Border Control page actually lists Poland's controls as continuing until September 2, but this appears to be an error. Other sources, including the same site's comprehensive PDF record of border control notifications, all say the controls ended on August 2.
Map of Temporary Schengen Border Controls in March 2016
Which Countries Are in the Schengen Area, and Which EU Countries Aren't?