Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Schengen Border Controls in February 2017: Map of Free Travel Restrictions

Last year, we explained Europe's Schengen free travel area in plain English, then published a maps of which European countries had temporarily reintroduced border controls as of March 2016 and August 2016. We now present an updated map and summary of the situation.

Schengen border checks map: map of Temporarily Reintroduced Border Control in the Schengen Area (the European Union's border-free travel zone) as of February 2017, color-coded for EU Schengen countries, non-EU Schengen countries, future Schengen countries, and Schengen-exempt EU countries, as well as microstates unofficially participating in the Schengen agreements (colorblind accessible).
Map by Evan Centanni, from blank map by Ssolbergj. License: CC BY-SA
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Article by Evan Centanni

Changes to Schengen Border Controls Since 2016

As 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 the spike in numbers of refugees and other immigrants arriving in Europe in the past two years, 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 in August of last year, there were six countries policing their borders with fellow Schengen members. At the moment there are seven, but the situation has largely remained the same since last summer.

It's important to note that the border controls shown on the map above are the maximum possible under each country's declaration - in some cases actual controls may be limited to only certain parts of these borders, or to certain times.

Map of the European Union (EU) and prospective member countries
The full EU and prospective members

France's Border Controls Extended

Unlike most of the countries with temporary border checks, which have focused their controls on specific stretches of borders popular with refugees and other migrants, France has reserved the right to maintain controls on all its borders - except, presumably, the boundary with tiny Monaco, which for immigration-control purposes is already treated as if it were within France.

Unlike other countries with border checks, France's controls are justified mostly as an anti-terrorism measure, not as a way of keeping out migrants. The French border controls were declared over a year ago and have been in place ever since then due to several extensions:

Start Date Duration Stated Reason
Nov. 13, 2015* 1 month Paris Climate Change Conference 
Dec. 14, 2015 6 months, 12 days "emergency state as introduced further to Paris attacks"
May 27, 2016 2 months Euro 2016 and Tour de France
July 26, 2016 6 months "emergency state as introduced further to Nice attack"
January 27, 2017 5 months, 18 days "persistent terrorist threat"

*France's November-December 2015 border controls were only for air and land borders (sea ports were excluded)

The most recent extension, declared on the 27th of last month, had the most generic justification yet, and came as France's front-running presidential candidate promised to "ignore" the Schengen agreement and re-institute permanent border checks if he's elected this May.

The 5 Schengen Countries with Negotiated Border Controls

Amid 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 last year, with five countries reducing the scope of their border controls by refocusing them on high-priority areas:
  • 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.
These border controls, originally set to expire in November, were extended another three months, and now expire on February 11-12. However, EU leaders appear to have approved yet another three month extension, to May 2017, and Germany's government is talking about switching to France-style anti-terrorism controls.

Temporary Border Controls in Malta

Besides those same six countries, border controls are also in place right now for the tiny island country of Malta. However, Malta's border checks are truly temporary, and are only scheduled for January 21 to February 9, as a security precaution while the country is hosting two important political summits related to migration into Europe.


Learn More:
Which Countries Are in the Schengen Area, and Which EU Countries Aren't? 
Map of Temporary Schengen Border Controls in March 2016 
Map of Temporary Schengen Border Controls in August 2016