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Who’s Who in Europe? The Differences between the EU and Schengen Area

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Date Published: April 4, 2021 | Date Updated: November 2nd, 2022
By April 4, 2021 November 2nd, 2022 No Comments
Who is Who in Europe? The Differences between the EU and Schengen Area

There is often much confusion around the European Union (EU) and the Schengen Area. Yes, the two concepts involve European countries – and often the same nations are involved in both – but there are some significant differences between them. 

With the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) due to be implemented in Europe by November 2023, knowing how the EU differs from the Schengen Area is more important than ever for those planning to visit the continent anytime soon.

In this article, we look at the differences between the EU and the Schengen Area in Europe.

In This Article:

  1. What is the European Union?
  2. What is the Schengen Area?
  3. Which countries are in the EU and/or Schengen Area?
  4. So, what’s the difference?
  5. Book a free consultation

What is the European Union?

Originally established as a way to promote peace on the continent soon after World War II, the European Union now serves as a group of countries in Europe that are united both politically and economically.

Each country that’s part of the EU votes for representatives in the European Parliament to present their respective nation. Although the legislation of each country is still decided by the nation’s own government, the EU has certain rules set in place as EU law which all member states must comply with.

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The participating countries have banded together to cooperate on matters such as human rights, policies on sustainable fishing and agriculture, and trade agreements – going so far as to establish the largest single economic market in the world with over 500 million consumers.

European Parliament building in Strasbourg

European Parliament building in Strasbourg.

This single market also allows for the free movement of people, goods, services and money throughout the member states and provides EU citizens with the absolute freedom to study, work, live and retire in any EU country. 

What is the Schengen Area?

The Schengen Area is a zone consisting of 26 European countries and stretching across the continent to create the largest free movement area in the world to make it easier for individuals to move between participating countries.

Essentially, the Schengen Area operates as a single country with no internal border controls or passport checks and shares a common visa policy. Therefore, once you’ve entered one Schengen country, you have unrestricted access to them all.

Schengen visa

The Schengen area covers 26 countries (Schengen States) without border controls between them.

Which countries are in the EU and/or Schengen Area?

In total, there are 27 members of the EU and 26 Schengen countries, in which some nations overlap, and others only participate in one concept:

Country EU Schengen
Austria Yes Yes
Belgium Yes Yes
Bulgaria Yes  Expected to join
Croatia Yes Expected to join
Republic of Cyprus Yes Expected to join
Czech Republic Yes Yes
Denmark Yes Yes
Estonia Yes Yes
Finland Yes Yes
France Yes Yes
Germany Yes Yes
Greece Yes Yes
Hungary Yes Yes
Iceland No Yes
Ireland Yes Opted out
Italy Yes Yes
Latvia Yes Yes
Liechtenstein No Yes
Lithuania Yes Yes
Luxembourg Yes Yes
Malta Yes Yes
The Netherlands Yes Yes
Norway  No Yes
Poland Yes Yes
Portugal Yes Yes
Romania Yes Expected to join
Slovakia Yes Yes
Slovenia Yes Yes
Spain Yes Yes
Sweden Yes Yes
Switzerland No  Yes
United Kingdom (UK) Brexit Opted out

So, what is the difference?

In the simplest of terms, the EU is a political and economic entity, whereas the Schengen Area is the world’s largest free movement area, stretching across Europe – essentially establishing all participating countries as one giant country. 

Both entities were formed at different times to fulfil different purposes. And, as shown in the table above, not all European countries participate in both concepts – with some not participating in any.

For foreign nationals outside of Europe, this means that travelling on a Schengen Visa means you only travel through the Schengen countries, but not those that are only part of the EU – and vice versa.

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This information is particularly important to note with the introduction of ETIAS by November 2023. The ETIAS permit will grant access to all countries that are part of the Schengen Area and is effectively a Schengen Visa.

When applying for a second citizenship or permanent residency through one of the European Citizenship or Residency by Investment programs, you will not only be a citizen or resident of the host country but of Europe and the European Union (if applicable) as well. As such, you will gain unrestricted access to the Schengen Area and EU territories when holding a European passport, provided that the country of citizenship or residence is part of the Schengen Zone and/or EU.

EU flags in front of European Commission

Both, the European Union and the Schengen Area were formed at different times to fulfil different purposes.

Book a Free Consultation

Of course, if you’re looking for something a bit more permanent than just a Schengen Visa, we’d be happy to be of service. 

When seeking second citizenship or permanent residency, be sure to render the services of an accredited and recognised advisor, like Savory & Partners

When choosing us as your partner on this journey, you can be assured that you are in safe and capable hands. Savory & Partners is a long-standing and well-respected authorized agent that specializes in helping high-net-worth individuals secure citizenship through investment for themselves and their dependents. 

The Savory & Partners team is made up of a diverse group of industry experts who span over 15 nationalities, speak over 25 languages collectively, and come with decades of accumulated CBI and RBI industry experience. Our level of expertise and competence combined with our commitment to serving our clients with the highest level of professionalism and transparency has led us to aid over 1,100 families obtain a second passport with a 100% success rate. There is no-one better positioned and more trustworthy than Savory & Partners when seeking the best results on your quest to secure a better future for yourself and your family.


Apply Today

If you would like to apply to a European Citizenship or Residency by Investment Program or learn more, get in contact with us today for a free online consultation. One of our skilled agents will happily aid you in your inquiry.

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Jeremy Savory

About Jeremy Savory

Jeremy Savory, the founder and CEO of Savory and Partners, runs one of the world’s leading HNW citizenship by investment firms. The second passport company has coverage in over 20 jurisdictions including Europe.

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