EU citizens, non-EU residents and visitors to the EU need to be able to freely and safely travel within the Union. The Schengen Area has made this a concrete reality.
An area without internal borders
The Schengen Area is one of the greatest achievements of the EU. It is an area without internal borders, an area within which citizens, many non-EU nationals, business people and tourists can freely circulate without being subjected to border checks. Since 1985, it has gradually grown and encompasses today almost all EU States and a few associated non-EU countries.
While having abolished their internal borders, Schengen States have also tightened controls at their common external border on the basis of Schengen rules to ensure the security of those living or travelling in the Schengen Area.
A single set of rules for external border checks on persons
The Schengen Borders Code governs the crossing of the external border, facilitating access for those who have a legitimate interest to enter into the EU. A special Local Border Traffic Regime has also been established to facilitate entry for non-EU border residents who frequently need to cross the EU external border. A common visa policy further facilitates the entry of legal visitors into the EU.
Security for citizens and travellers
EU State authorities need to cooperate on border management to ensure the security of citizens and travellers in the EU. A number of information sharing mechanisms are central to this cooperation.
The Visa Information System (VIS) allows Schengen States to exchange visa data, in particular data on decisions relating to short-stay visa applications.
The Schengen Information System (SIS) allows Schengen States to exchange data on suspected criminals, on people who may not have the right to enter into or stay in the EU, on missing persons and on stolen, misappropriated or lost property.
VIS and SIS, as well as EURODAC are operated by the EU Agency for large-scale IT systems (eu-LISA).
It is also necessary to ensure the security of travel documents to fight against the falsification and counterfeiting of travel documents and to establish a reliable link between the document and its holder.