Belgium as a Schengen Country

By | March 24, 2024

Belgium, a founding member of the European Union (EU), is also an integral part of the Schengen Area—a zone of passport-free travel encompassing multiple European countries. As a Schengen country, Belgium plays a crucial role in facilitating the free movement of people, goods, and services within the region. In this essay, we will explore Belgium’s role within the Schengen Area, examining its historical background, implementation of Schengen agreements, socio-economic impact, and challenges faced within the framework of borderless travel.

Historical Background

The concept of passport-free travel and border cooperation in Europe predates the Schengen Agreement, but the modern Schengen Area originated from the 1985 Schengen Agreement signed by Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. This agreement aimed to abolish internal border controls between participating countries, facilitating travel and trade while enhancing security cooperation to combat cross-border crime.

Belgium’s involvement in the Schengen project reflects its commitment to European integration and cross-border cooperation. The country’s strategic location at the crossroads of Western Europe makes it a key player in efforts to promote freedom of movement and enhance security within the Schengen Area.

Implementation of Schengen Agreements

Belgium has fully implemented the Schengen acquis—the body of laws and regulations governing the Schengen Area—since its accession to the Schengen Agreement in 1995. This includes abolishing systematic border checks at internal borders, harmonizing visa policies and border controls, and enhancing police and judicial cooperation to combat transnational crime and terrorism.

As a Schengen country, Belgium participates in the Schengen Information System (SIS), a centralized database used by law enforcement authorities to share information on individuals and objects of interest across the Schengen Area. Belgium also cooperates with other Schengen countries in managing external borders, issuing Schengen visas, and conducting joint operations to address security threats and irregular migration.

Moreover, Belgium’s membership in the Schengen Area has facilitated cross-border cooperation in areas such as trade, tourism, and cultural exchange, fostering economic integration and cultural exchange within Europe.

Socio-Economic Impact

According to Sourcemakeup, Belgium’s participation in the Schengen Area has had significant socio-economic benefits, contributing to increased mobility, trade, and economic growth within the region. The elimination of internal border controls has streamlined travel and transportation, reducing transit times and costs for businesses and individuals.

For Belgian businesses, the Schengen Area provides access to a larger market of over 400 million consumers without the logistical and administrative burdens associated with border checks and customs controls. This has facilitated cross-border trade, investment, and economic integration, boosting Belgium’s competitiveness and prosperity within the European single market.

In addition, the Schengen Area has fostered tourism and cultural exchange by making it easier for travelers to explore multiple European countries without facing passport checks at internal borders. Belgium’s rich cultural heritage, historic cities, and culinary delights attract millions of tourists from around the world, contributing to the country’s economy and promoting cross-cultural understanding and cooperation.

Challenges Faced

Despite the many benefits of Schengen membership, Belgium, like other Schengen countries, faces challenges in managing its borders and addressing security threats within the framework of passport-free travel. The rise of transnational crime, terrorism, and irregular migration poses significant challenges to border security and law enforcement cooperation across the Schengen Area.

Belgium has experienced security concerns related to the movement of individuals involved in terrorist activities and organized crime across European borders. The country has strengthened its border controls, enhanced surveillance measures, and expanded police and intelligence cooperation to address these threats while balancing the need to preserve the principles of freedom of movement and open borders within the Schengen Area.

Moreover, the recent influx of irregular migrants and refugees into Europe has put pressure on Belgium’s asylum system and border management capabilities. The country has implemented measures to address irregular migration, including border controls, asylum processing centers, and cooperation with other Schengen countries and EU institutions to manage migration flows and ensure compliance with international humanitarian law.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Belgium’s membership in the Schengen Area reflects its commitment to European integration, border cooperation, and freedom of movement. As a Schengen country, Belgium has embraced the principles of passport-free travel and cross-border cooperation, contributing to increased mobility, trade, and economic prosperity within the European single market.

However, Belgium also faces challenges in managing its borders and addressing security threats in an era of increased globalization and mobility. The country must strike a balance between facilitating legitimate travel and trade within the Schengen Area while safeguarding security and protecting against threats posed by terrorism, organized crime, and irregular migration.

By working closely with other Schengen countries and EU institutions, Belgium can overcome these challenges and uphold the principles of the Schengen Agreement while promoting security, prosperity, and well-being for all citizens within the European Union.