What Is the Difference Between the EU and the Schengen Area?

europe and schengen area

The European Union: How It Got Started

The European Union began as the EEC (European Economic Community) after the Second World War. In 1958, six countries (Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) decided to join forces to create a community that would involve agreements over steel, coal, and other elements of trade. The idea was that such cooperation would make war in Europe less likely as countries that trade together do not fight.

Over the years, a further 22 countries joined the project to create the largest free-trade bloc in the world. This project now goes well beyond trade, representing shared values like dignity, freedom, democracy, and human rights. It also creates laws and policies which must be followed by all 28 members in areas including climate, environment, health, and justice.

The EU has allowed Europe to enjoy more than 50 years of peace. It has also meant that nearly 400 million Europeans can enjoy freedom of movement and can work and travel in whichever EU country they like without restrictions.

The Schengen Area vs the EU

The Schengen Area is a free movement zone across Europe, the largest such zone in the world. It was created to facilitate internal movement and improve security. It is now possible to travel from Finland to Portugal without passing through a single border control.

The area is made up of 26 countries but not all of these are members of the EU (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein are not part of the European Union), and not all members of the EU are part of the Schengen Area, as it is the case of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Both of them are part of the European Union but opted to stay outside of the Schengen Area.

Schengen countries are permitted to close their borders in cases of national emergencies and some have felt the need to do so in recent years due to illegal immigration and terrorism concerns. As a matter of fact, in December 2018, new rules to strengthen the security in the Schengen Area were introduced.

What is ETIAS?

ETIAS stands for EU Travel Information and Authorization System. This new electronic travel authorization is expected to come into operation at the end of 2021. The idea is that this system will strengthen security across the Schengen Zone, making it easier to keep track of people moving in and between countries.

ETIAS will be available for citizens of 60 countries who do not require a visa to visit the EU. It will allow them to spend up to 90 days traveling in the Schengen Area for tourism or business. If you want to know whether you qualify to apply for an ETIAS authorization, please check the ETIAS visa waiver requirements.

Remember, as mentioned earlier, EU and Schengen are not the same thing. The ETIAS travel authorization would give you access to some countries that are outside the EU and you would not have access to others, including the UK and Ireland.
The application for ETIAS will be simple and straightforward and will include personal information such as name, address, date of birth, and passport details required together with some questions regarding health and security.
As with most visas and travel authorizations, be sure to give yourself enough time to apply for your ETIAS for the Schengen countries so you can enjoy traveling freely around Europe.