The European Continent is home to a total of 44 countries, out of which, 27 are European Union Members, and 26 are part of the Schengen Area. Several other countries are neither in the EU nor members of Schengen.
European Union countries that are not part of Schengen are…
The United Kingdom has never been part of the Schengen territory, and it will stop being an EU member at the end of 2020.
Other European countries that are not part of the Schengen Zone are:
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
What is the Schengen Area?
The Schengen Agreement was originally signed on June 14, 1985, by only 5 European nations to promote the freedom of movement. The Schengen Area is a result of the terms decided on the agreement. Over time, more EU countries signed the agreement to benefit from the abolishment of internal borders between its members.
Today, the “free movement of persons is a fundamental right guaranteed by the EU to its citizens”. Cooperation between member states contributes to the freedom of European citizens.
A shared visa policy by all Schengen Members
The 26 countries that are part of the Schengen Zone have a common visa policy. Under the said policy, third-country nationals that are not visa-exempt must apply for a uniform Schengen visa at a Schengen country embassy or consulate. The visa grants its holder short-term stays in one or more of its member states.
To get a visa, travellers will need a valid passport, health insurance or travel insurance, two recent photos, roundtrip reservation or itinerary, proof of accommodation, and proof of financial means. Schengen visa applicants must complete an application form and print two copies to present the day of their interview at the diplomatic mission.
Nationals of over 60 countries can enter Schengen territory visa-free for stays of up to 90 days. However, in recent years the EU has faced several challenges in managing its borders and the overall security of the region. In 2016, the EU proposed the implementation of an electronic travel and information authorization system, ETIAS, to improve border security.
ETIAS will be a mandatory travel authorization for citizens from visa-exempt countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand. The process of getting ETIAS to travel to Europe will be simple, quick, and straightforward. Nothing like the visa application process.
The ETIAS application will be available online and will take eligible travellers just a few minutes to fill out. Each person will be requested to provide the following information:
- Full name
- Travel document details (issuing date, expiry date)
- Date and place of birth
- Email address
All applicants must answer a series of security questions to submit their ETIAS form. Data from each traveller will be checked against several security databases such as Interpol, Europol, and SIS II.
It is expected that the ETIAS system will be up and running at the end of 2022.
ETIAS will be valid to enter Schengen member countries. European countries that are not part of Schengen have different visa policies and regulations. To travel to these countries, travellers might be exempt from applying for a visa depending on their nationality.
Why are some European countries not in Schengen?
There are several reasons why some European countries are not part of the Schengen Area or the European Union.
Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Iceland did not want to be part of the European Union, but are part of the Schengen Area and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
In other cases though, countries have not met criteria set by the EU or the Schengen Agreement. The European Commission has an application process in place for EU membership. The Treaty on European Union, article 49, lays down the conditions that must be met by each candidate country.
Candidate European countries that wish to join the EU must apply to the Council while the European Parliament and national Parliaments are notified.
Accession criteria to join the EU
Also known as the Copenhagen Criteria, are the conditions all countries must meet to become a member of the EU:
- Political criteria: institutions must be stable and guarantee democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities
- Economic criteria: a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competition and market forces
- Ability to take on the obligations of membership
Some countries that wish to enter the EU are Albania, not expected to join until 2020 at the latest. Montenegro applied for full membership in 2008 and negotiations started in 2012.
Criteria to join the Schengen Area
Joining the Schengen Area means that each country must meet several conditions and be prepared to:
- Take responsibility for controlling the external borders on behalf of other Schengen states
- Take the responsibility for issuing uniform Schengen visas
- Should be able to cooperate effectively with law enforcement agencies in the other Schengen States
- Apply the common set of Schengen rules, such as controls of land, sea, and air borders
- Connect to and make use of the SIS II
Each applicant country undergoes an evaluation of to join the Area. In 2019, the Commission reported that Croatia had made progress to meet the requirements to join the Schengen Area.