TIMELINES: What seven European countries merge borders under the Schengen Treaty on March 26, 1995?

March 26, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

Monday, Mar. 26, 2012

THEN

March 26, 1995, 10 years after it was signed, the Schengen Agreement goes into effect, creating one external border for seven European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal. In addition to allowing free movement between the member countries, the treaty also provides for common rules on asylum, police pursuit, joint efforts on drug-related crimes, and other issues. One of the items that delays implementation of Schengen, are Germany’s fears that Italy will not be able to adequately police its coastline against immigrants from North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. The United Kingdom and Ireland opt not to join Schengen.

NOW

Earlier this month, during a political rally of approximately 50,000 supporters French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed a controversial ultimatum to the European Union: He threatened to withdraw France from the now 25-member Schengen Agreement if the EU fails to implement a more aggressive illegal immigration policy. During the Arab Spring uprisings in North Africa last year, tens of thousands of North African migrants arriving on Italy’s shores were granted temporary residency permits, allowing them free movement within the Schengen borderless region. With many of the French-speaking North Africans going to France, Sarkozy closed France’s borders to train traffic from Italy—an illegal move under the treaty. Schengen’s rules were subsequently amended to address some of France’s concerns, but tensions remain today, particularly over concerns that Greece’s border with Turkey is a liability for all of the EU.