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June 1999, Volume 6, Number 6

EU: Schengen, Asylum

The Amsterdam Treaty became effective on May 1, 1999, which means that responsibility for developing EU-wide migration policies will shift from national governments to the European Commission. Under Article 61 of the Amsterdam Treaty, migration policies of member nations are to be coordinated over five years, Article 62 calls for uniform visa issuing and border management policies, and Article 63 says that the 1951 UN Refugee Convention will serve as a basis for EU policy coordination on refugees.

Since May 1, Schengen regulations have governed rules for member nations to issue visas that give foreigners access to Schengenland for up to 90 days; visas that permit foreigners to remain in a country for more than 90 days remain the sole prerogative of national governments. France and Germany each issue two million less-than-90-day Schengen visas each year.

Consular officers and border inspectors may not grant Schengen visas or admission to any of the six to eight million persons listed in the Schengen Information System. Foreigners in the SIS may be granted national visas, valid only for the country granting the visa. However, with no border checks, national visas could be used outside the country issuing them.

As EU countries have coordinated their visa issuance policies, more foreigners who cannot obtain visas are being smuggled into Europe, where they apply for asylum--by one estimate, 80 percent of the asylum seekers in 1999 are smuggled or arrive with false documents.

Schengen border-free travel is considered one of the most important concrete examples of European integration. The origins of Schengen, as well as the EU, were economic. As intra-EU trade increased, long lines of trucks at border crossing points were slowing trade, and the trucking industry brought pressure to end border checks. The Euro 11 countries are expected to have two percent growth in 1999; France is projected to create 300,000 jobs in 1999.

The EU wants to facilitate the movement within the EU by urging that a 12-month "EC service provision card" be issued to EU non-nationals established in one EU country who are sent to work in another, and for employed persons to provide services. Businesses established in one EU nation could send nationals of a non-EU country who are lawfully established in business's home country to another Member State to provide services. Self -employed workers from non-EU countries who are lawfully established in one EU country could also move around the EU, provided that the principal place of work remains in the country where the business is established. Some EU member nations want a non-EU national to be required to work at least one year in the country where he/she is established before being sent to another EU country.

"Free Movement of Workers: Member States Take Another Look At Cross-Border Provision of Services," European Report, May 13, 1999.