Most European Union (EU) Member States participate in the common visa regime, even though there is no common visa policy applicable to all of them. The visa policy explored here covers the Schengen Area (including EU Member States and other countries, as well as EU countries that are still outside the Schengen). The Schengen Area does not include two EU Member States—the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland—that have opted out from the EU’s visa policies and operate a common travel area between them. Furthermore, the common visa policy in the EU is related to the issuance of short-term visas, while visas of longer duration and residence permits remain in the national domain. Against this background, the visa policy of the EU has four relevant aspects. First, the gradual evolution of the Schengen Area has been driven not only by political developments within the EU and its Member States, but also by broader global developments (e.g., the fall of communism). Second, the consolidation of the internal and external aspects of the visa policy in the EU took place through the growth of the Schengen acquis. Third, visa liberalization has become one of the most powerful tools for policy diffusion beyond the EU’s borders. Finally, securitization of migration has had a strong impact on the EU’s visa policy, particularly in the domains of information exchange and police cooperation.
Abolition of internal border controls—with corresponding harmonization of external border controls and other relevant policies (short-term visas, freedom to travel, control of irregular migration)—has become a cornerstone of the European Union’s (EU) overall integration project, being linked also to harmonisation of asylum policy, external relations issues, and policing and criminal law cooperation, including the ongoing development and extension of justice and home affairs databases such as the Schengen Information System and the Visa Information System. However, the Schengen process has been frequently contested over the past decade, first of all in the context of the Arab Spring in 2011 and subsequently due to the perceived migration crisis of 2015–2016. The EU has responded with a combination of further integration (such as more funding, more harmonization, and more power for EU bodies) along with deference to Member States regarding re-imposing border checks in order to stop flows of asylum-seekers. It may be questioned how well this strategy will work in the long term, but in the medium term it has succeeded in keeping the Schengen policy afloat in this modified form. The research in this field has concentrated on whether the Schengen system has accomplished its objectives and the possible tension between the system and human rights and data protection standards, as well as the overlapping tensions between the attempts to develop a uniform policy at EU level and the divergences in implementation and policy priorities at national level, particularly at times of crisis or intense political debate.
John Erik Fossum
Norway has applied for membership of the European Union (EU) four times but is not a member. The two first applications were aborted because of de Gaulle’s veto against the U.K.’s application. The two latter were turned down by Norwegian citizens in popular referenda (1972 and 1994). Why did a majority of Norwegian citizens reject EU membership? A survey of the literature identifies a range of historical, cultural, political, and socioeconomic factors. In addition, it cannot be discounted that there were specific features about the referendums and the referendum campaigns that help account for the decisions to reject EU membership, given that all Nordic states except Iceland have held EU membership referendums. Nevertheless, despite the fact that Norway is not an EU member, it has opted for as close an EU association as is possible for a nonmember. In order to understand Norway’s EU relationship, the following paradox must be addressed: whereas the question of EU membership has long been a highly controversial and divisive issue, Norway’s comprehensive incorporation in the EU through the EEA Agreement and a whole host of other arrangements has profound constitutional democratic implications and yet has sparked surprisingly little controversy. What then are the distinctive features of the “Norway model,” in other words, Norway’s EU affiliation? In order to clarify this, it is necessary to compare and contrast Norway’s affiliation with other relevant types of affiliation that nonmembers have to the EU. Thereafter, the distinctive features of Norway’s EU affiliation can be outlined: the internal market through the EEA Agreement; justice and home affairs through the Schengen and Dublin conventions; as well as defense cooperation and the institutional apparatus regulating Norway’s relationship with the EU. A distinctive feature of the Norway model is its comprehensiveness: Norway’s various EU affiliations amount to it incorporating roughly 75% of all EU laws and regulations. What are the domestic mechanisms and arrangements that enable Norway to adapt so closely to the EU when the EU membership issue continues to be so controversial? There is public support for the present arrangement, but how robust and resilient that is can be questioned. The arrangement depends on specific mechanisms that ensure that Norway’s EU affiliation remains depoliticized. In explicating these mechanisms, a clearer conception emerges of how Norway balances the challenges associated with global economic integration, national sovereignty, and democracy.
Iceland’s European policy is a puzzle. Iceland is deeply embedded in the European project despite its non-EU membership status. Iceland is a member of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) (1970), the European Economic Area (EEA) (1994), and Schengen (2001). Moreover, Iceland applied for membership in the European Union (EU) in 2009. Nonetheless, the Icelandic political elite have been reluctant to partake in the European integration process. They have hesitated to take any moves toward closer engagement with Europe unless such a move is seen as necessary to deal with a crisis situation. Decisions to engage with the European project have not been made based on outright economic and political preferences. They have primarily been based on economic or political necessity at times when the country has faced a deep economic downturn or its close neighboring states have decided to take part in European integration. The country has essentially been forced to take part in the project in order to prevent crises from emerging or to cope with a current crisis situation. For instance, in 2009, Iceland unexpectedly applied for membership in the EU after the collapse of its economy nine months earlier. However, four years later, after a swift economic recovery and after Iceland having been “betrayed” by the EU in the so-called Ice-save dispute with the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, the accession process was put on hold. The EU was no longer seen as an economic and political savior. Iceland’s close relationships with its powerful neighboring states, the United States and the United Kingdom, have also had considerable influence on the country’s European policy. Iceland’s membership in the EFTA, the EEA, and Schengen was largely dictated by the Nordic states’ decisions to join the organizations and because of crisis situations their lack of membership would have meant for Iceland were it to be left out. Moreover, the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the Union has firmly frozen Iceland’s accession process and contributed to increased criticism of the transfer of autonomy from Reykjavik to Brussels that takes place with the EEA Agreement. Furthermore, many at the right of center in Icelandic politics do not see any security reasons for joining the EU, as Iceland’s defense is guaranteed by a bilateral defense treaty with the United States and membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). European debates about partial and full participation in the European project have led to harsh opposition in Althingi (the National Parliament), deep divisions in society at large, and public protests. Opposition has been driven by an overwhelming focus on sovereignty concerns. The political discourse on sovereignty and self-determination prevails except when the country is faced with a crisis situation. To prevent a crisis from emerging or to deal with a current crisis, Icelandic politicians reluctantly decide to take partial part in the European project. They are determined to keep autonomy over sectors of primary political importance, sectors that are close to the heart of the nation, those of agriculture and fisheries.
The Treaty of Amsterdam was the result of the 1996–1997 Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) among the then 15 EU member states (March 1996–June 1998). Its three core objectives were making Europe more relevant to its citizens, enabling it to work better and preparing it for enlargement, and giving it greater capacity for external action. It was the first IGC since the enlargement with Austria, Finland, and Sweden, who had joined the European Union (EU) in 1995. The negotiations took place in the aftermath of the collapse of the communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, opening the prospect of an eastern enlargement. Shortly before the start of the IGC, the Madrid European Council (December 1995) had confirmed that the decisions on launching the accession negotiations would be taken within six months of the conclusion of the IGC. The Treaty was not the critical juncture in European-integration history, which the previous Maastricht Treaty had been. The 1996–1997 IGC tried to complete some of the unfinished work of its predecessor. This included the further extension of qualified majority voting (QMV) and codecision, the shaping of a European security policy and making further progress in dossiers such as energy, civil protection, and the hierarchy of norms. Still it would be erroneous simply to downplay the Treaty as a mere “leftover” text. Under the leadership of the successive Italian, Irish, and Dutch presidencies, the heads of state or government reached an agreement on an employment chapter, a strengthening of social policy, the creation of the position of a high representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), a partial communitarization of cooperation in the field of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), provisions on flexible integration and the integration of Schengen into the Treaty. Highly sensitive issues such as the reweighting of the Council voting system and the size of the European Commission were postponed to the next IGC. After a relatively smooth ratification process, which raised little public attention, the Treaty of Amsterdam entered into force on May1, 1999.