Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Europe of Open Borders as Schengen Zone Expands

Edis Bevan writes at his blog MKNE political information:

"Back in 1945 my mother swam the Elbe to escape the oncoming Soviet army and find refuge in British held territory. Europe was a place of fear.

At midnight today (20 December 2007) the Schengen agreement that allows for free passage –without need of passports- across national frontiers within most of the European Union is extended to include her native Lithuania (and eight other countries including Latvia and Estonia). What an extraordinary contrast in 60-odd years."

As Deutsche Welle and other news sources reported in the second half of December, expanded open borders in Europe in the Schengen Zone have become a reality as nine EU countries became Schengen Zone members on December 21, 2007: Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, joining previous Schengen Zone members Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden, so that there are now 24 Schengen Zone members. In addition, Monaco honors the Schengen Agreement but is not a signatory to it.

This expansion moves the controlled Eastern border of Europe to non-Schengen Zonecountries further East, as shown below in a map linked from (see there for more info), where visas will now become more expensive at the border for the non-EU countries:

When Bulgaria and Romania join the EU and the Schengen Zone, the natural axis of power between East and West will be re-esatablished as the line running at the land bottleneck between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. This natural axis of power was recognized as one of the world's most important borders historically by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr., editor, The Dynamics of World Power: A Documentary History of United States Foreign Policy 1945-1973, a five-volume compendium later reprinted in paperback in 10 volumes and available through AbeBooks.

The United Kingdom and Ireland, although they are EU members, are not members of the Schengen Zone, whereas Norway and Iceland are members of the Schengen Zone, but are not members of the EU. The Schengen countries are shown at the following map linked from BBC News Europe:

That results in an interlinked Schengen Zone which looks like the following map, linked from Wikipedia, which has an extensive article on the Schengen Agreement (in the map below, the green areas are Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Bulgaria and Romania, who are not Schengen Zone members yet, but who are scheduled to join in the near future:

Not only EU citizens or travelers from Norway or Iceland but also non-EU travelers can travel freely within the Schengen countries if they obtain a Schengen Visa.

Such a Schengen Visa (issued in various categories) among other thinigs are not required for visitors from North America, Japan, most of South America, Australia, New Zealand. See the European Union visa lists at Wikipedia.

The map below linked from Wikipedia shows the Schengen Visa requirement worldwide:

Dark Blue - EU member states
Light Blue - Special visa-free provisions (Schengen Agreement, OCT or other)
Red - Visa required to enter the EU - annex I countries (negative list)
Green - Visa-free access to the EU for 90 days - annex II countries (positive list)
Grey - Visa-status unknown

Interesting is the unflattering comparison (for North America) of the European Schengen Zone with US-Canada relations (see the comments to that posting).

For some comments about the Schengen expansion, see the blogosphere at:
- Jon Worth's Euroblog - Schengen: it's bad both ways according to the UK media and
Schengen enlargement - let’s start the debate in the UK too and take his EU test at Know the EU the Facebook way
- Colin Ross - Schengen Zone gets bigger (greetinigs to the Midlands)
- Edis Bevan - MKNE political information
- Blog - Richard Corbett MEP - The Tories and Schengen (greetings to Yorkshire)
- Slugger O'Toole - So sign up to Schengen...
- Ordovicius - Schengen Expands (with map)
- Forum Flyer Talk - Issues regarding Issuance of Visas
- CIPE Development Blog - Border-free Europe expands
- No More Passport - Just Pass the Port