The European Union (EU) was established after the entry into force of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) or the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 and is currently made up of 28 European states. Thanks to the Schengen Agreement, several EU countries today enjoy the abolition of border controls between these countries, which allows the free movement of people.

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.

Article Index

The Schengen area and the Member States of the European Union

member states

The founding countries of the European Union were originally Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. To date, the EU is made up of a total of 28 member states, with some exceptions such as Iceland, Russia, Norway and Switzerland, which are European states but are not part of the EU.

Some European territories belonging to Member States of the Union are also not included in the EU; this is the case of the Channel Islands and the Faroe Islands.

The current member states of the Union are shown below along with their accession date and capital:

CountryAccession dateCapital
GermanyMarch 25th 1957Berlin
AustriaJanuary 1, 1995Vienna
BelgiumMarch 25th 1957Brussels
BulgariaJanuary 1, 2007Sofia
CyprusMay 1th 2004Nicosia
CroatiaJuly 1, 2013destination
DenmarkJanuary 1, 1973Copenhagen
SlovakiaMay 1th 2004Bratislava
SloveniaMay 1th 2004Ljubljana
SpainJanuary 1, 1986Madrid
EstoniaMay 1th 2004Tallin
FinlandJanuary 1, 1995Helsinki
FranceMarch 25th 1957Paris
GreeceJanuary 1, 1981Athens
HungaryMay 1th 2004Budapest
IrelandJanuary 1, 1973Dublin
ItalyMarch 25th 1957Roma
LatviaMay 1th 2004Riga
LithuaniaMay 1th 2004Wool
LuxembourgMarch 25th 1957Luxembourg
MaltaMay 1th 2004Valletta
NetherlandsMarch 25th 1957Amsterdam
PolandMay 1th 2004warsaw
PortugalJanuary 1, 1986Lisbon
United KingdomJanuary 1, 1973London
Czech RepublicMay 1th 2004Prague
RomaniaJanuary 1, 2007Bucharest
SwedenJanuary 1, 1995Stockholm

In addition, with the launch of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), not only a Common Market was established, but a single currency: the euro (€). This is how the call is born the euro area o Eurozone in 2002, to which various Member States were progressively added.

The United Kingdom and Denmark, despite being part of the European Union, decided to stay out of the Eurozone after the ratification of the TEU. Therefore, the currency of the United Kingdom is pound sterling (£) and, that of Denmark, the danish crown (kr).

Schengen Agreement

The Schengen Agreement was signed in 1985 and aims to abolish border controls within the so-called Schengen area, which involves the creation of a free movement zone. The UK and Ireland, although they do participate in certain respects, decided to stay out.

Thus, the Schengen area came into force and began to function in 1995. Thanks to this common space, the member countries enjoy the absence of border controls when traveling from one country to another. In short, the Schengen area works in migration terms as if it were a only country.

There is some confusion in this matter, since there are member states that do not belong to it, and non-member countries that do. Therefore, below we list the countries that make up the Schengen area:

  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Denmark (except Greenland and the Faroe Islands)
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France (except overseas territories)
  • Greece
  • Czech Republic
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Norway (except the Svalbard Islands)
  • Netherlands (except Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and the Caribbean Dutch)
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Of the countries listed above, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are non-EU countries that are nevertheless included in the Schengen area. In Greece, entry into the Mount Athos region is prohibited for women and men who so wish will need a special permit (the diamonitrion). Also, in Ceuta y Melilla There are a number of special provisions for Moroccan travelers.

Andorra It is a European microstate that is not mentioned in the previous list, but that nevertheless has an agreement with the EU by which the free movement of people is also allowed. At border posts the same conditions will apply as for EU territories outside the Schengen area. In your case, foreigners traveling with a Schengen visa will need a multiple entry visa.

Monaco Nor does it carry out border controls to enter the country, since it has an agreement with France. This means that although it is not part of the Schengen area, in practice it is as if it did. San Marino and Vatican City They each have a border with Italy, because it is only possible to enter them by crossing Italy and passing the corresponding controls that are carried out in this country for foreigners.


El European Economic Area (EEA) was established in 1994 after an agreement between several member countries of the European Union and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), with the exception of Switzerland. The creation of the EEA allowed EFTA member countries to participate in the EU common internal market without having to join it.

The euro (€) is the official currency of the Eurozone which, since 2014, has been shared by 19 of the 28 Member States. Currently used by more than 337 million Europeans, the euro is the second most traded currency in the world behind the US dollar ($).

Thus, the common market is at the same time a customs union and a free trade area. Thus, for Member States there are no border tariffs and the transit of capital and services is free. Below are the states that make up the EEA together with the currency replaced by the euro:

CountryPrevious coin
GermanyGerman mark
AndorraAndorran franc and Andorran peseta
AustriaAustrian shilling
BelgiumBelgian franc
Vatican CityVatican lyre
CyprusCypriot pound
SlovakiaSlovak crown
SloveniaSlovenian tolar
SpainSpanish peseta
EstoniaEstonian crown
FinlandFinnish mark
FranceFrench franc
GreeceGreek drachma
IrelandIrish pound
ItalyItalian Lira
LatviaLatvian lats
LithuaniaLithuanian Litas
LuxembourgLuxembourg franc
MaltaMaltese lira
MonacoMonegasque franc
NetherlandsFlorin dutch
PortugalPortuguese shield
San MarinoSanmarinense lyre

El United Kingdom, Denmark y Sweden They have not adopted the euro despite being countries that are part of the EU. Therefore, to travel to these countries, it will be necessary to change our currency to pound sterling, the danish crown or the Swedish crown, respectively. Neither have other recently acceded countries such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania.

All of them are expected to end up adopting the euro by 2019, although the United Kingdom and Denmark have an exclusion clause and, for now, the possibility of these countries adopting the euro is not contemplated.

Travel Documents

Citizens of any European Union country do not need to present neither national identity document nor passport to travel between member countries of the Schengen area. However, it is possible that in some airports the national identity document is requested as a way to regularize the transit of passengers.

In addition, although it is not necessary to carry documentation, it is always recommended to carry your passport or ID as a way to prove your identity if necessary (eg if requested by the police). It is also advisable to apply for the European Health Card (TSE), a personal document that certifies the right to receive healthcare during our temporary stay in the territory of an EEA Member State or Switzerland.

It should be noted that, since they do not belong to the Schengen area, in the following countries you will have to present a valid identity document or passport to be able to cross the border: Croatia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, United Kingdom and Romania.

The most advisable thing before traveling is that you check which are the valid documents to leave your country and visit any of these countries that do not belong to the Schengen area. The following situations are considered special cases and the following should be taken into account:

  • The extra-community relatives (natives of non-EU countries) can accompany you or meet you if they travel to another EU country. In any case, it is essential that they carry a valid passport with them at all times and, depending on the country of origin, they may also require an entry visa at the border. To avoid problems, it is best to consult your specific case at the consulate or embassy of the country to which you are going to travel.
  • The minors traveling aloneIn the company of adults who do not have their legal custody or in the company only of the father or mother, they must present their valid passport or identity document, as well as an official document authorizing the trip. Said authorization must be signed by both parents, the other parent, or those who have legal custody. In any case, there are no EU regulations in this regard and each country can adopt its own measures.

In case of loss or misplacement of passport or DNI, or in the event that one of them expires during the trip, all EU member countries can provide a solution in these cases. Even so, each country is free to decide whether or when to allow citizens to enter or leave their territory without a valid travel document, even if they are a natural citizen of an EU country.

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