The Schengen Agreement: What Countries Are Part Of The Schengen Area & European Union
Are you willing to travel to Europe and enjoy an unforgettable trip?
In that case, you may want to learn more about the Schengen Area Countries and Schengen Visa Agreement.
If you haven’t started planning your trip yet, you can read this post before deciding what European cultures you would like to experience.
If you have already planned your vacation itinerary and need to apply for a Schengen Visa, we still recommend you read this post.
During your Embassy Interview, the Visa office officers might test your basic knowledge about Europe and the Schengen Agreement.
Of course, the Embassy officials are not looking to measure your general knowledge during the interview (they are more interested in ensuring you have genuine intentions to return to your country of residence).
However, knowing how to answer all of their questions will help you make a good impression on them and increase your Visa approval chances.
Table of contents:
- What is the Schengen Area?
- History of the Schengen Area
- Schengen Member States – General information
1. What Is The Schengen Area?
The Schengen Area (Schengen Zone or Schengen Territory) consists of 26 countries that have abolished border controls.
Nevertheless, they have focused on strengthening their external borders and improving law enforcement and police cooperation.
Several foreign citizens need a Schengen Visa for border checks when travelling to the Schengen States, but they can cross internal borders without further formalities.
Only if there is a serious threat to internal security, a Schengen country may temporarily reintroduce border controls.
In that case, the member State that reintroduces border controls as a temporary measure has to inform the Council, other Schengen countries, European Parliament, European Commission, and foreign nationals travelling to the Schengen Area.
The countries that form the Schengen Area are the following: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
De facto, the Schengen Area also includes Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican City, which are microstates that maintain open borders with the Schengen countries.
The Schengen Visa policy relies on common rules.
A Schengen Visa allows you to travel freely within all the Schengen Area member States (as we mentioned previously, you can cross the Schengen borders within the Schengen Area without immigration formalities and controls).
Of the 26 Schengen countries, 22 are EU Member States.
The countries that are not EU members but have signed the Schengen Agreement are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
These four countries that are not part of the European Union (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) are EFTA Member States (European Free Trade Association).
EFTA is a trade area promoting free trade and economic integration for its four members.
Five non-Schengen countries are EU members: Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Cyprus.
While Ireland maintains opt-outs, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania, and Bulgaria are expected to join the Schengen Area soon.
2. History Of The Schengen Area
The Schengen Area history starts with the Schengen Agreement, signed in Luxembourg on June 14, 1985, by five countries (France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands).
These countries were aiming to build a Europe without borders and allow freedom of movement between states.
“Schengen” is a small village in Southern Luxembourg where these countries have signed the Agreement.
The Agreement has the purpose of abolishing border checks gradually.
The implementation of the Schengen Agreements started more than two decades ago.
The rules adopted under the Schengen Agreement (that initially operated independently from the European Union) led to the creation of the Schengen Area on 26 March 1995.
Since then, the Schengen Area has experienced a fast development as other European countries abolished their internal border checks.
As more EU Member States joined the Schengen Agreement, they reached a consensus on absorbing it into the European Union procedures.
As a result, the Schengen Agreement and its related conventions were incorporated into the European Union law by the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997.
Nowadays, the Schengen Area covers most EU countries, except Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the countries mentioned above that are supposedly looking to join the Agreement in the future, including Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Cyprus.
3. Schengen Member States – General Information
Before sharing further information about each Schengen State, we would like to remind you how Schengen Visas work (for more details, please visit this link).
If your Schengen Visa gets approved, the Schengen Information System (SIS) will register your biometric and personal data and pre-screen you when crossing a Member State’s external border.
Once you enter the Schengen Area, you can travel from one Schengen Country to another without border control.
A short-stay Visa (whether it is a single-entry or multiple-entry Visa) allows you to spend up to 90 days in the Schengen Area over a 180-day period.
Austria is an East Alpine country composed of nine federal states. One of these nine states is Vienna, its capital and largest city, also known as the world’s classical music capital. Austria is famous for its castles and palaces, such as Hohenwerfen Castle, Hohensalzburg Fortress, or Kreuzenstein Castle. Also, the Austrian Alps are ideal for skiers looking for fantastic pistes and slopes.
Belgium is located in Western Europe. Brussels (the capital and largest city) is a unique city with massive Gothic cathedrals and Art Deco taverns. Belgium is famous for its delicious waffles, chocolates, and pralines. You should also know that UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has included the Belgian beer culture in their cultural heritage list.
- Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is located in Central Europe. Prague is the capital and largest city in the Czech Republic and is famous for several tourist attractions, such as Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, the Jewish Quarter, etc. Prague has more than ten major museums. The Czech Republic is also famous for its castles and chateaux in Europe (over 1600).
Denmark is a Nordic country in Northern Europe that consists of a peninsula (Jutland) and an archipelago of 443 islands. Copenhagen is the capital and most famous city of Denmark. Thousands of tourists travel to Denmark yearly to learn more about the mysterious Vikings and discover its colourful crooked houses.
Estonia is a country in Northern Europe. Outside of the mainland, Estonia includes 2.222 islands on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. Tallinn, a UNESCO world heritage, is the capital of Estonia and one of the largest cities. People worldwide know Estonians for their digital innovations and the sauna culture, which is an essential part of the Estonian tradition.
According to the World Happiness Report, Finland is a Nordic country best known for being “the happiest country in the world”. Finnish people love saunas, with more than 3 million saunas on the country’s territory. Helsinki, Finland’s capital, was the World’s Design Capital for 2012. Helsinki has a unique sea-facing landscape and architecture.
France is located in Western Europe. Paris is one of the most famous cities worldwide and a significant centre of finance, commerce, fashion, and arts. Tourists travel to France to visit the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, Notre-Dame de Paris, Moulin Rouge, Disneyland, and taste the fine wines and gourmet food.
Germany is in Central Europe, between the Baltic and North seas to the north and the Alps Mountains to the south. Berlin is the capital and the largest city in Germany. The country is famous worldwide for its beer and breweries, palaces and castles (e.g., Sansoucci and Schwerin Palaces, Cochem Castle, etc.), and Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival and travelling funfair.
Officially the Hellenic Republic, Greece is located in Southeast Europe. Greece is often known as the cradle of Western civilisation and the birthplace of democracy. The capital city is Athens. Tourists love the famous Greek Islands (e.g., Santorini, Mykonos, etc.), the Acropolis of Athens, and Greek food and coffee.
You can find Hungary in Central Europe in the Carpathian Basin. The Danube River flows through Budapest’s heart (Hungary’s capital and largest city) and divides it into two parts: Buda and Pest. Hungary has fairy tale architecture and spectacular thermal springs and spas.
Known as “the land of fire and ice”, Iceland is a Nordic island country located in the North Atlantic Ocean. Reykjavík is the capital and largest city. Iceland is well known for Mount Hekla, a volcano that has erupted 18 times, last time in 2000. Even though Mount Hekla is its most famous volcano, Iceland has other active volcanic systems (approximately 30).
Italy is a peninsula located in Southern Europe. Its capital Rome is one of the most famous cities in the world. The country is well known for its massive contributions to the world of art, architecture, and fashion. Tourists travelling to Italy are interested to learn more about Italian cuisine, cars, football, or the Italian famous hand gestures.
Latvia is a Baltic State in Northern Europe, whose capital and largest city is Riga, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Latvia is a unique country, well-known for the Art Nouveau architecture, beautiful waterfalls, wildlife, and national parks. You should also know that Latvia is also one of the most budget-friendly places to travel in Europe.
Liechtenstein is a microstate located in the Alps. Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, is situated along the Rhine River. The country is a semi-constitutional monarchy and is famous for having the world’s lowest crime rates. Liechtenstein has several top-rated tourist attractions, such as the Treasure Chamber of the Principality of Liechtenstein in Vaduz, Gutenberg Castle in the south of the country, or the small village Nendeln.
Lithuania is located on the Baltic Sea’s eastern shore and is a developed country with an advanced economy. Vilnius is its capital and largest city. Lithuania attracts many visitors for its seaside resorts, forests, lakes, spa towns, pilgrimage sites, and festivals.
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a small country located in Western Europe. Luxembourg City is one of the four official capitals of the EU, together with Brussels, Frankfurt, and Strasbourg. Even though it is one of the smallest countries in Europe, Luxembourg is a very wealthy country. The historic Old Quarter of Luxembourg City has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994.
Malta is an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea and the world’s tenth smallest country. Malta’s capital is Valletta, an elegant city created by the Knights of Malta bounded by two harbours. Outside of the historical monuments in Valletta, tourists love Gozo Island, the medieval town of Mdina, and Rabat‘s historical attractions.
Informally Holland, the Netherlands is located in Western Europe. Its capital is Amsterdam, often referred to as “the Venice of the North”. The Netherlands is famous for the windmills and tulips (one of the country’s main icons) and some of the world’s most renowned artists, such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh, or Johannes Vermeer.
Norway is a Nordic country that includes a part of the Scandinavian Peninsula. Norway also incorporates the volcanic island of Jan Mayen and the archipelago of Svalbard. Its capital is Oslo. Norway attracts millions of tourists every year for its national parks, fjords, glaciers, northern lights, and road trips.
Poland is a country in Central Europe whose capital and largest city is Warsaw. Poland has beautiful cities, despite the destruction during World war II. Many tourists visit it for its castles and tourist attractions and monuments, such as the Wieliczka Salt Mine, the Auschwitz Birkenau Museum, or the Lower Oder Valley International Park.
You can find Portugal on the Iberian Peninsula. Lisbon, the capital city, is well-known for its importance in finance, commerce, arts, entertainment, and tourism. The country is famous for the sweet port wine, fado music, charming beaches (Algarve is the most popular beach destination), and azulejo, the Portuguese ceramic tilework.
Located in Central Europe, Slovakia is a beautiful country with incredible landscapes and spectacular mountains. Its capital is Bratislava. The city occupies both banks of the Danube River and the left bank of the Morava River. Slovakia has one of Europe’s most beautiful towns and small hamlets.
Slovenia is a country located in Central Europe with primarily mountainous terrain. The capital city is Ljubljana. Slovenia has more than 10.000 registered caves, and Postojna Cave is one of the most visited caves in Europe. Slovenia is also famous for Planica, one of the largest ski jumping areas in the world.
Spain is one of the most visited countries in the world. Located in Southwestern Europe, its territory also includes two famous archipelagos: the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands. The Balearic Islands include the Island of Ibiza, one of the most popular travel destinations in Spain. Madrid is the capital and largest city. The country attracts millions of tourists eager to learn more about its history, cuisine and bullfighting and discover Barcelona and Valencia’s tourist attractions.
Sweden is a Nordic country, and its capital city is Stockholm. Sweden is famous for IKEA, Spotify app, H&M, and for several top-rated tourist attractions. The Vasa maritime museum in Stockholm is Sweden’s most renowned museum. Tourists are also interested in visiting the world’s first ice hotel in Jukkasjärvi and the 29 national parks with beautiful landscapes.
Switzerland is a landlocked country composed of 26 cantons. Technically, Switzerland has no capital city. De facto, Switzerland’s administrative capital is Bern. Switzerland is famous for its chocolate, Mount Pilatus in the Lake Lucerne region, the village of Grindelwald, the Rhine Falls, and much more.
Hopefully, this post has helped you have an overall image of the Schengen Area and the countries you can visit with a Schengen Visa.
If you liked this post and want to visit Europe’s most iconic landmarks, do not hesitate to ask for a free Schengen Visa consultation. We would be more than happy to assist you through your application process and provide you with valuable information, tips, and tricks.