The recent immigration crisis in Europe has caused heads of state to question the efficiency of the Schengen Area. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban are skeptical of the Schengen Area’s continued existence. Not only is Orban intent on reinstating border controls between Schengen countries, he has also proposed building a fence along the Greek and Macedonian/Bulgarian border, reported The Telegraph. Such measures are aimed at curbing illegal immigration into the EU. Already an estimated 1 million people have entered the area illegally.
What would the suspension of the free-travel zone mean for legal workers moving between states?
Understanding the difference between the EU and the Schengen Area
The most important thing to understand about the Schengen rules for free movement is that they do not directly correspond to the EU’s laws regarding free movement between members. In fact, the Schengen Area also covers Switzerland, Norway and Iceland, which are not members of the EU. Passport holders of these countries are not required to get visas to travel across Schengen borders. The agreement was implemented in 1985. The current problems haven’t been caused by problems with internal movement, but rather by issues with the external borders of the Schengen zone.
If the Schengen Area fails, EU citizens will still be able to travel between countries without a visa – however, they can expect their commute to get a little longer. The right to free movement is guaranteed by Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The article states that EU nationals and their family members may freely pass between states for the purpose of work or while in the pursuit of a job. While the Schengen rules are in place, these nationals do not need to present a passport while crossing the border. Therefore, if the rules were to be suspended, free travel would still be permissible, although traveling workers may be required to present their passport at the border. Commute time could become quite lengthy with such requirements.
Workers and their family members are also allowed to live in the country in which they are employed. If the Schengen rules are suspended, it should in no way affect the EU laws regarding living abroad. That said, many people are fearful that a suspension of the laws could create a domino effect that could potentially collapse other portions of the EU system. The French prime minister has been especially fond of prophesying such eventualities. The situation should be clearer after the next EU summit.
How are non-EU nationals affected?
Non-EU nationals are required to have a 60-day Schengen Visa, which will in turn give them the right to apply for a residency permit. The process of obtaining the visa can be difficult and time consuming, and so many serious applicants use a professional immigration services provider to expedite the process. In general, Schengen Visa applicants need to provide a number of documents, such as medical insurance policies, employment contracts and copies of their airline tickets, among others. Holders of a visa are typically checked at the external borders of the Schengen area, then given the right to free movement once inside. If the rules are dissolved, international workers may face tighter security restrictions, though they will still be allowed to work in the EU, assuming they have the proper documentation.
A proposed deal with Turkey
On Mar. 8, EU leaders came close to settling a major part of the immigration issue. Turkey, which is currently seeking entrance into the EU, has agreed to accept migrants from Greece in exchange for an equal number of Syrian immigrants. Additionally, the EU could potentially send €3 billion in funding to Turkey, reported RT. Nothing has been signed or officially documented yet, but both parties seem hopeful of a favorable outcome for all. The agreement could pull the Schengen Area away from the danger of dissolving.