The Schengen is a common travel area comprising 26 European states that have officially abolished all border controls to facilitate free movement of people and goods.

The Schengen area was first established in 1985 named after small village town of Schengen, Luxembourg. It is considered as one the remarkable achievement in human history to facilitate free movement of people with open borders.

Which countries may join Schengen area in the future?

Four EU member states are strong candidates to join the expansion of Schengen area in the future and Ireland is a special case.  The EU national governments must unanimously decide to allow new states to enter the border-free zone. Some member states oppose these countries joining schengen .

1. Bulgaria

Bulgaria joined the EU on 1 January 2007, are also legally bound to join the Schengen Area, implementation has been delayed.

2. Croatia

Croatia joined the EU on 1 July 2013, is also legally bound to eventually join the Schengen Area, implementation has been delayed. On 22 October 2019, the European Commission backed Croatia to join the Schengen Area, a preliminary stage for full accession into the Schengen Area

3. Cyprus

Although Cyprus, which joined the EU on 1 May 2004, is legally bound to join the Schengen Area, implementation has been delayed because of the Cyprus dispute. In Nov 2019, Cyprus formally began the application process of joining the Schengen area in September and European Commission is currently evaluating the application

4. Romania

Romania joined the EU on 1 January 2007, are also legally bound to join the Schengen Area, implementation has been delayed.

5. Ireland

Ireland may opt-in to join schengen area anytime in the future if political climate changes after Brexit. Nobody knows for sure yet.

European Union vs Schengen states

EU member states should not be confused with schengen states. Being EU member state means they dont automatically participate in schengen.

The Schengen Area

Actually there are 28 EU member states as of NOW and only 22 of these states have joined schengen area.

Currently these four EU members that are not part of the Schengen Area, four—Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania—are legally obliged to join the area in the future, while the other one—Ireland—maintains an opt-out.

Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland are four non-EU member states, they participate in schengen area..

Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City—are de facto part of the Schengen Area.

The colonies or territories of Schengen member states are exempted from the Schengen Agreement. Faroe Islands,  Svalbard, French, British and Dutch overseas territories also not part of schengen..

EU candidate countries

These 5 countries are candidate countries to join EU in the future and negotiations are on. Once these countries become full EU member states, they are likely to join schengen area after the accession.

  • Albania,
  • North Macedonia,
  • Montenegro,
  • Serbia and
  • Turkey

In 2018, Montenegro Government expressed interest joining schengen area after EU accession on or after 2025.

Potential EU candidates

Going backwards, these are the two countries which have a clear prospect of joining the EU in the future but have not yet been granted candidate country status. Again these countries are on a long way from joining EU and schengen area.

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Kosovo

What are the conditions for joining Schengen Area?

Joining the Schengen Area is not merely a political decision. Future Countries must also fulfill a list of pre-conditions, such as be prepared and have the capacity to:

  • Take responsibility for controlling the external borders on behalf of the other Schengen States and for issuing uniform Schengen visas
  • Efficiently cooperate with law enforcement agencies in other Schengen States in order to maintain a high level of security once border controls between Schengen countries are abolished
  • Apply the common set of Schengen rules (the so-called “Schengen acquis”), such as controls of land, sea and air borders (airports), issuing of visas, police cooperation and protection of personal data
  • Connect to and use the SIS (schengen information system).

Applicant countries undergo a “Schengen evaluation” before joining the Schengen Area and periodically thereafter to ensure the correct application of the legislation.