The Schengen cooperation was first established in 1985 by Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France and Germany. The intention was to establish an area without travel restrictions, in which border controls between the participating countries were eliminated and there was closer cooperation on combating transnational crime. Later the Schengen cooperation was incorporated into the EU cooperation, and it now includes all the EU countries except for Ireland and the UK.

Since 1954 the Nordic countries have all been members of the Nordic Passport Union, which also provides for an area without travel restrictions for Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway. When the Nordic EU members, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, joined the Schengen cooperation, Norway and Iceland had to enter into an agreement with the Schengen countries in order to retain the Nordic Passport Union.

Norway therefore concluded an agreement with the EU on its association with Schengen in 1999. This agreement entitles Norway to take part in drafting new legislation on the implementation, application and further development of the Schengen acquis (the whole body of agreements and legislation relating to the Schengen system). It is Norway’s most important agreement with the EU apart from the EEA Agreement.

In order to establish an area with a common external border and no internal border controls, all the participating countries must have identical entry requirements. This means, for example, that they must have common rules on which third-country nationals are required to hold visas. On the other hand, the visas are generally valid in all the Schengen countries. Moreover, all the participating countries must be able to rely on the ability of the other countries to carry out satisfactory border controls. This is why the Schengen acquis includes rules on the control measures to be implemented at the external border of the Schengen area.

The Schengen acquis also provides for cooperation between the police authorities of the participating countries. A common information system (Schengen Information System, SIS) enables police in the Schengen countries to issue warnings concerning wanted criminals, missing persons and stolen property.

EU cooperation in the field of justice and home affairs has gradually expanded to include more than the Schengen cooperation. The trend is towards closer cooperation between the police and the prosecuting authorities in the various countries, the harmonisation of legislation in the fields of both civil and criminal law and a common immigration and asylum policy. The Schengen agreement does not mean that Norway is automatically part of this wider cooperation.

However, Norway is facing the same challenges as the EU member states as regards serious transnational crime, such as terrorism, drug smuggling and human trafficking. This makes the Schengen cooperation a natural forum for Norway to raise issues of common concern, which may extend beyond the scope of the Schengen acquis. Where appropriate, Norway is also interested in concluding special agreements on cooperation in specific areas. One example is the cooperation agreement Norway has signed with Europol, the EU law enforcement organisation, and Eurojust, the cooperation body for prosecuting authorities in the EU.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs   |   Share on your network   |   print