FECL 32 (March 1995):

"SCHENGEN" AND THE SCANDINAVIAN COUNTRIES

The Danish Government has already applied for membership of the Schengen Group. And on 27 February, the Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson announced at a meeting of the Nordic Council in Rejkjavik that his government is preparing the country's accession to "Schengen". Carlsson's announcement came as a surprise to the leaders of all other parties represented in the Swedish parliament. Carlsson however emphasised that the maintenance of the Nordic Passport Union was a precondition to a Swedish membership in the Schengen Group. Both Norway's and Iceland's Prime Ministers have stressed their countries' preparedness to carry out external border controls according to Schengen requirements. However, given Norway's and Iceland's non-membership of the EU, the matter is causing some headaches for diplomats both in Brussels and the Nordic capitals.

 

Denmark too is unequivocal about the prerequisites of its membership of "Schengen". Recently, the country's negotiators clearly stated that the introduction of (external) border controls at the internal borders of the Nordic Union are "impossible from a political point of view". This indicates a harshening of Danish positions. As late as November 1994, the Danish delegation considered that an "adaptation" of the Nordic Passport Union to "Schengen" requirements was possible.

Denmark proposed the following possible solutions to the problem:

a) Without becoming members of the Schengen group, Norway and Iceland (both are non-EU states) carry out external border controls on behalf of Schengen, i.e. their borders to the Schengen territory become internal borders at which controls are abolished.

b) Schengen reaches a special agreement with the two countries.

c) Norway and Iceland implement part of the Schengen provisions or even join the Schengen group as members of the EEA.

Norway has already indicated its interest in joining the Schengen group on several occasions and stressed before the Schengen Presidency that such a step would not even require a referendum.

However, the delegation of the Belgian Presidency of the Schengen Group has reservations regarding the Danish proposals, on the following grounds:

- Hitherto, accession to the Schengen Agreement could not be subjected to any conditions and permanent concessions demanded by one member state.

- The realisation of external border controls in the Schengen area implies access to the SIS, which is not granted to non-Schengen states according to the text of the Agreement.

- Even if Norway was granted access to the SIS, a problem would remain regarding the Schengen states' common visa policy and their mutual consultations on visa related matters. "For Schengen, the problem is not so much about Norwegians but concerns foreigners who could freely enter the

Schengen area via Norway", it says in a report of the Schengen Central Group.

- A partial adoption of the Schengen Agreement by a non-member state would amount to a "Schengen à la carte". Moreover, in this event, Norway would have to implement decisions of other states on visa matters on its own territory.

- The membership of an EEA-country would not only require a change of the Schengen Implementing Agreement, but also result in the impossibility of integrating Schengen into the Third Pillar of the Maastricht Treaty on European Union at a later stage.

Based on the above, the Delegation of the Belgian Schengen presidency, according to a document dated 22 February, drew the conclusion that "it seems out of question to make substantial progress in the short term".

The document also mentions Danish concern about increased controls at the German-Danish borders expected as a result of the entry into force of the Schengen Agreement.

Both in Norway and Sweden, government plans aiming at gaining some form of Schengen membership have drawn angry reactions.

However, criticism of the Schengen Agreement does not focus so much on matters related to civil liberties, such as police cooperation, the SIS and increased external border controls, but rather on the abolition of internal border controls. In both countries their is a strong public belief that controls at national borders are an effective means of preventing the influx of narcotics. Just as in Britain, the traditional "insularity" of Scandinavians might be the real reason for their opposition to the abolition of border controls.

EU opponents in Norway claim that, by seeking to join the Schengen cooperation, the government is showing total disrespect for the people's will expressed in the Referendum on EU membership, and is deliberately playing down the political consequences of an eventual Schengen membership. This view is likely to be supported by a majority of Norwegians. Recent opinion polls show that the voters are not regretting their No vote to EU membership.

 

Sources: Compte rendu sur les entretiens entre la Présidence Schengen et le Danemark menés à Copenhague le 15 février 1995, Schengen Central Group, Brussels, 22.2.95, SCH/C (95) 13; Svenska dagbladet, 27.2.95; Dagens Nyheter, 28.2.95; Klassekampen, 28.2.95; Le Monde, 1.3.95. See also in this FECL: Documents and Publications.