5.3.2014 | Von:
Mechthild Baumann

Externalization: From a Line to an Area, from Entry Control to Exit Control

Zwei Grenzkontrolleure laufen entlang der Begrenzung zwischen Polen und Weißrussland. Border patrol squad servicemen walk along the exclusion zone near Pererov, a border crossing between Belarus and Poland. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

With the development of the Schengen Agreement, the ministries in the Schengen states responsible for border management have gradually expanded the border line to become a border area. This means that the borders are no longer only surveilled at the line of demarcation between two states, but that the surveillance reaches further into the interior of the country and in doing so becomes increasingly less directly concerned with the border line. In 1998, the Austrian presidency placed this development on the agenda and suggested the concept of "concentric circles".[1] Although this concept was not adopted, its basic idea of the Schengen states being a core with high border security influenced the configuration of European border policies. Neighboring states and other more distant states group around this core like concentric circles, each acting as a buffer for the core and securing it.

Schengen states, EU Member States and states that are included in the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP)Schengen states, EU Member States and states that are included in the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) (© Eigene Darstellung nach: Wikimedia Commons (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BlankMap-Europe-v4.png), Urheber: Roke)

Freedom of Movement within the "Hard Core"

The Schengen states stand in the center of European border policies — persons are not controlled at their common border checkpoints. However the Schengen external borders are intensively surveilled according to common standards. The legal basis for this is the so-called Schengen Borders Code (Regulation 562/2006). This piece of legislation applies not only for citizens of the Schengen or EU states, but for everyone legally staying in this core, that is, in the Schengen area.

The freedom of movement of persons without controls was originally at the heart of the Schengen cooperation from which border policy has developed. This freedom of movement without controls is broadly considered one of the most important achievements of European integration. In recent years, however, it can be observed that this achievement has been in danger. In 2011, several Schengen states have demanded to facilitate the reintroduction of controls at their common borders. The incident that spurred this discussion was that Italy had given a large number of residence permits on humanitarian grounds to refugees who had crossed the Mediterranean, which enabled them to then travel further on into France. [2]


Surveillance – Controls – Security: Is it all the same?

Generally, there is a difference between controls and surveillance. People, their documents and goods are controlled at border crossing stations, when entering by car at border checkpoints, by airplane at the airport or by ship in the harbor. The border areas between border checkpoints are surveilled. These areas are commonly known as "green borders" (forests, fields) or "blue borders" (sea). The goal of surveillance is the avoidance of people "bypassing the border checkpoints" (Schengen Borders Code).

Together, controls and surveillance are referred to as external border security or external border management.

Before border controls were abolished, the border lines between two Schengen countries were clearly visible as there were fences or walls. After the border controls were abolished, the fences and walls were also removed. However, the national borders themselves remained and were surveilled.

Border and Immigration Control Measures in the "Extended Core"

Surrounding the "hard core" is the extended core, which includes the EU states that are not members of the Schengen Agreement. These are on the one hand, states that do not wish to participate such as Great Britain or Ireland, and on the other hand EU states that have not (yet) joined the Schengen territory, such as Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and the new Member State, Croatia [3] (as of July 2013). There are still border controls for people crossing into these EU countries. At the same time, these states largely carry out the measures designed for a common security of EU external borders.

Entry Conditions and Control Measures

The EU differentiates categories of incoming third-country nationals according to the form and legal status of their entry:
  • business travelers or tourists, who, just like EU citizens, are allowed to enter and stay for 90 days without prior authorization, for example citizens of Singapore, the USA or Chile;
  • business travelers or tourists who need entry authorization (a visa);
  • persons who flee to the EU because their safety is threatened and they therefore request protection (asylum);
  • persons who come from a state obliged to obtain a visa and anticipate that they will not be granted one and therefore enter illegally.
The EU allows special control measures for each of these groups, which are explained in more detail in the following paragraphs.


In order to be able to keep the internal borders open, the EU states agreed on common conditions to entry into their common territory, that is, in EU territory. For one, this includes a determination of those states whose citizens must apply for a visa if they wish to enter Schengen/EU territory as well as a list of those who are exempt from the visa requirement. [4]

From 2004 onwards, the EU had the Visa Information System (VIS) developed in order to check whether a person has already applied for a visa before. The VIS serves as a hindrance for so-called "visa shopping". Visa shopping occurs when nationals from third countries apply for visas in multiple EU countries as a result of previously being refused a visa in another EU Member State. The VIS, however, can be used not only by immigration offices such as the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), but now also by security agencies such as the police thanks to the Decision “concerning access for consultation of the VIS by designated authorities of Member States and by Europol for the purposes of the prevention, detection and investigation of terrorist offences and of other serious criminal offences” (VIS Decision) which entered into force on 1 September 2013.[5]


People who are persecuted in their country have the right to apply for asylum in the EU (Directive 2011/95/EU). [6] The decision on whether an asylum seeker is granted asylum is made on an individual basis. In 1990, the Dublin Convention specified which EU country was responsible for processing an asylum application, at which time the EC countries agreed that the country into which the asylum seekers first entered would assume responsibility for the processing [7] This arrangement was intended by the EC to help end the “asylum shopping” that was observed in several EC Member States.

To determine whether an asylum seeker has already previously submitted an application, the EC implemented the EURODAC database (lat. dactylos — finger), which stores the fingerprints of every asylum seeker. If a person submits an application for asylum, he or she is required to be fingerprinted. The authorities are then able to determine through the system whether that person has already filed for asylum in any other EC (today EU) country. If this is the case, or if the authorities can prove that the asylum seeker entered the EU via another country, then he or she is "transferred" back to that country. An exception here at the moment is Greece. The German federal government decided in 2011, before the Federal Constitutional Court had decided on a pending claim, not to send asylum seekers that had entered via Greece back for the asylum process given the inhuman conditions that the asylum seekers had to live under in Greece.

Border and Immigration Control Measures in the "Neighboring Zones"

All neighboring states of the EU as well as all non-EU countries are designated as third countries. This includes countries with accession prospects as well as those without. While safe third countries and the country of origin regulation are measures of immigration control, [8] the EU also directly involves its neighbors in border management and in doing so creates a buffer zone. The idea behind this is to win over its neighbors to control and surveil their borders with the EU according to EU standards. The neighboring countries are supposed to prevent the illegal entry of migrants and criminals who try to enter the EU through these third countries. This involves a kind of trade in which both parties to the treaty perform a service. The service returned by the EU looks differently depending on the status of the neighboring country:


Österreichische Ratspräsidentschaft [Austrian Presidency] (1998).
bpb (2011).
The Council decides on admission to the Schengen territory based on each individual accession treaty. As of the editorial deadline in September 2013, when the new EU Member States would in fact be in a position to abolish their border controls was still completely open.
Regulation No. 539/2001.
Council Decision 2008/633/JI.
Directive 2011/95/EU on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection, and for the content of the protection granted.
Dublin-Übereinkommen [Dublin Convention] (1997, p. 1).
A "safe" country in this context is every country classified by the EU as "safe". "Safe" means that there is no threat to life or freedom on the basis of "race", religion, nationality, belonging to a specific social group or on the political conviction of the asylum seeker; that the principle of non-refoulement according to the Geneva Convention on Refugees is protected and that an asylum seeker has the possibility to apply to be recognized as a refugee. "Country of origin" is that state from which the non-EU citizen comes, whose citizenship he possesses. "Third countries" are non-EU countries through whose territory a non-EU citizen enters the EU, most often a neighboring country.
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