It took ten years for the Schengen Agreement which was signed in Luxembourg on 14 June 1985 to be finally put into effect, but on 26 March 1995 Spain (which had not been a signatory to that original agreement), France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal abolished their internal border checks. It was a landmark achievement.
It had been France and Germany who took the idea of an area with no internal borders between countries to the meeting of the European Council on 17 June 1984 and it was a year later that five countries signed the agreement in the small village of Schengen in southern Luxembourg on the Moselle river. France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands were the signatories on that occasion.
Five years later, on 19 June 1990, a Convention was signed for the concrete implementation of the Schengen Agreement, covering issues such as the abolition of internal border controls, the definition of procedures for issuing a uniform visa, operation of a single database for all members (the SIS, or Schengen Information System) and the establishment of a cooperating structure between internal and immigration officers.
Things began to move more quickly then. Italy joined on 27 November the same year, Spain and Portugal on 25 June 1991. Others followed suit, and some countries, such as Romania and Bulgaria applied but were rejected by the Council of Ministers after complaints by the Dutch and Finnish governments regarding concerns about shortcomings in anti-corruption measures and in the fight against organised crime.
At present 26 countries are in the Schengen Area. These are Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.