Cooperation on Schengen and justice and home affairs

Norway participates in key aspects of EU cooperation in the area of justice and home affairs, of which the Schengen cooperation is the most important. As a Schengen member state, we are part of an internal free-travel area with a common external border. This is dependent on all participating states implementing and applying the common rules in an effective and responsible manner.

Other parts of the EU cooperation in the area of justice and home affairs also affect us to a greater or lesser extent. For example, transnational crime makes effective international police cooperation essential. Europe also faces challenges in connection with refugee flows and illegal immigration that need to be addressed in a common effort.

The Schengen cooperation

The Schengen cooperation was originally established in 1985 between Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France and Germany, and is named after the village in Luxembourg where the agreement was signed. The Schengen Agreement established a free-travel area, in which checks on persons at the borders between member countries were discontinued, as well as closer cooperation on transnational crime.

The Nordic Passport Union, which allows citizens of the Nordic countries to travel freely within the borders of the Nordic region, was established in 1954. When the Nordic EU members – Denmark, Sweden and Finland – applied to join the Schengen cooperation, Norway and Iceland also had to enter into an agreement with the Schengen countries so that the Nordic Passport Union could be retained. This cooperation agreement was signed on 19 December 1996.

The provisions in the Amsterdam Treaty integrating the Schengen cooperation into the EU meant that a new institutional framework was needed, and a new agreement between Norway, Iceland and the EU had to be concluded. The association agreement was signed on 18 May 1999, and came into effect for Norway in 2001.

Norway’s participation in the Schengen cooperation

Our association agreement on participation in the Schengen cooperation gives us the right and the obligation to apply all the Schengen rules. These include rules on police cooperation, legal cooperation on criminal cases, visa rules and rules on checks on persons at the outer borders. These are intended to compensate for the challenges that arise from the removal of checks at the internal borders. This primarily has implications for the work of the police, the prosecuting authorities and the immigration authorities.

When developing new rules, the European Commission is obliged to consult Norwegian experts in the same way that it consults experts from the EU countries. Our association agreement also entitles us to take part in the formulation of new provisions of significance for the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis.

Norway’s participation in the Schengen cooperation takes place in the Mixed Committee, which is made up of the EU member states, the European Commission and the four associated countries: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. All Schengen-relevant issues that arise in our ongoing cooperation are discussed in this committee, and Norway is thus involved in these discussions. Moreover whenever the European Council is developing rules that do not fall within the scope of the agreement but can nevertheless be of significance for our cooperation, the Mixed Committee must be informed.

Once proposals for new rules have been discussed in the Mixed Committee, the rules may be adopted by the EU member states in the European Council. Norway then decides on an independent basis whether to adopt these rules and incorporate them into Norwegian law.

Who takes part in the Schengen cooperation?

All the EU member states apart from the UK, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania take part in the Schengen cooperation. In addition, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are associated members.

Denmark is in a special position, having entered a number of reservations during the negotiations on the Maastricht Treaty, particularly relating to participation in the supranational aspects of the justice and home affairs cooperation. As the whole of the justice and home affairs cooperation is now supranational, this has created challenges for Denmark. Further developments in this area under the Lisbon Treaty have made it necessary for Denmark to enter into parallel agreements with the EU in this area, like Norway.

The UK and Ireland are also in a special position. In principle, they do not take part in the cooperation on migration and asylum, or in the Schengen cooperation. However, they have the opportunity to take part in certain aspects of the cooperation in these areas if they so wish.

Due to the political situation in Cyprus, the country remains outside the Schengen cooperation for the time being. In addition, Bulgaria and Romania are not yet full members of the Schengen cooperation.

Other justice and home affairs cooperation

The Schengen cooperation covers a clearly limited area within the EU cooperation on justice and home affairs. There are many other areas where Norway and the EU have common challenges and interests, as well as a mutual desire for cooperation. There are therefore a number of other association agreements between Norway and the EU.

One of the most important of these is the agreement entered into in 2001on Norwegian participation in the Dublin acquis, which sets out the criteria and mechanisms for establishing the state responsible for examining a request for asylum presented in a Schengen or EU member state. This also means that Norway has access to Eurodac, the European fingerprint register for asylum seekers.

Norway is not formally associated with the EU’s migration and asylum policy. However, this is an area where EU policy and rules have consequences for Norway and where we have relevant expertise and resources to offer. We are therefore engaged in a close dialogue with the EU on migration, asylum and refugee issues. The EU’s policy in this area is described in more detail in another article, which you can find here. Norway entered into an association agreement with Europol (the EU’s law enforcement agency) in 2001. The agreement provides for practical cooperation between the Norwegian police and Europol, for example through the exchange of information and liaison officers. A similar agreement was entered into with Eurojust (the EU’s judicial cooperation unit) in 2004.

Norway is also associated with the EU Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, and has entered into an agreement on the surrender of criminals. Other important association agreements in the justice and home affairs area include our association with the Lugano Convention (on the enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters), the Prüm Convention (on enhanced exchange of information between the contracting parties’ police forces), and the European Police College (Cepol).