FECL 35 (June 1995):

NORWAY TO JOIN SCHENGEN BY THE BACK DOOR

Norway seems willing to become part of the Schengen Agreement as a junior partner excluded from decision-making in the Schengen Group. The news came after a meeting between the acting president of the Schengen Group, the Belgian Minister of Trade, Robert Urbain, with his Nordic counterparts in Brussels, on 16 June.

 

Mr Urbain said after the meeting that Norway and Iceland could not become formal members of the Schengen Group, since the Schengen Agreement does not provide for membership of non-EU states. The Schengen member states are unwilling to renounce this requirement, as this would put at risk a future integration of the Schengen Agreement into a common EU framework.

Instead, the President of the Schengen Group proposed to conclude a "secondary agreement" with the EEA countries Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. "In this, they would assume the obligations of Schengen membership, but would not obtain all rights", Mr Urbain explained.

The rights that the EEA countries would have to renounce include decisions of the Schengen Group on asylum rules, visa policies and the implementation of border controls.

At the Brussels meeting, both Norway and Iceland were prepared to begin negotiations on this basis. Iceland, however, appeared to be more doubtful than Norway.

The ministers also discussed an alternative solution in the event of strong popular opposition in Norway and Iceland against the proposed formula. This would consist in granting observer status to the two non-EU states at meetings where the Schengen member states draw up and take decisions, whereupon the Schengen Group meeting would immediately be renamed and repeated as a "Schengen plus" meeting - this time, formally, with the full participation of Norway and Iceland.

Hitherto, uncertainty about Norwegian relations with Schengen had prevented the start of negotiations on the Schengen membership of the Nordic EU member states Denmark, Finland and Sweden.

This impediment has now been overcome, thanks to the flexibility shown by the Norwegian government, and negotiations could now begin as early as September.

It is, however, much less certain that the Norwegian people will approve either of the proposed quasi-membership formulas.

 

Source: Svenska Dagbladet, 17.6.95.