State of Schengen 2024: Advancements and Priorities

The Schengen area has emerged as a global leader in free travel, facilitating seamless journeys for nearly 450 million individuals and bolstering the European Union’s competitiveness. In the wake of the challenges of the past year, the Commission’s latest report on the State of Schengen not only reflects on the achievements of 2023 but also outlines crucial priorities for the year ahead.

Throughout 2023, the resilience of Schengen remained evident, maintaining its position as the world’s top tourist destination. With over 10 million Schengen visas issued and more than half a billion passengers traversing its borders, the area reached an impressive 92% of pre-pandemic levels. This robust activity significantly fueled the EU economy, underscoring the vital role of tourism, which contributes nearly 10% of the EU’s GDP and sustains approximately 22.6 million jobs.

State of Schengen 2024:

The report offers a comprehensive overview of Schengen’s progress, challenges, and advancements during the 2023-2024 cycle. While acknowledging effective adherence to Schengen rules, the report also identifies areas for improvement:

  • Strengthened legislative framework: New regulations, including the Schengen Borders Code, Advance Passenger Information Regulation, and Directive on Information Exchange between law enforcement authorities, aim to enhance security and streamline border procedures.
  • Enhanced governance: The Schengen Council’s role has been fortified, utilizing tools like the Schengen Evaluation and Monitoring Mechanism, Schengen Scoreboard, and Schengen Barometer+ to ensure efficient data analysis and cooperation among member states.
  • Expansion efforts: Steps have been taken to integrate Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen area, marking a significant milestone in its enlargement with the lifting of controls at air and sea borders as of 31 March 2024. The lifting of checks at the internal land borders requires a further Council Decision.
  • Embracing alternatives: The report emphasizes the exploration of alternative measures to internal border controls, such as cross-border police cooperation, as recommended by the Commission.

Schengen Evaluation:

Building upon peer-to-peer evaluations conducted in 2023, the report highlights the need for improved application of Schengen rules, particularly in border control quality, return capacities, utilization of the Schengen Information System, and cross-border information exchange.

Proposal for Strengthening Schengen:

For the first time, the Commission proposes a Council Recommendation to bolster the Schengen area, focusing on key actions:

  • Leveraging the governance framework to enhance implementation of common priorities.
  • Enhancing border security and resilience, including cooperation with third countries.
  • Advancing digitalization for improved efficiency and security.
  • Intensifying efforts against cross-border crime and unauthorized movements.
  • Improving cooperation for an effective EU system for returns.

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