Differences of opinion between member states led to an impasse over the abolition of border controls within the Community, but in 1985 five of the then ten Member States – Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany – signed an agreement on the phasing out of checks at common borders. The agreement was signed on the princess marie-astrid boat on the Moselle, near the city of Schengen, Luxembourg,[5] where the territories of France, Germany and Luxembourg meet. Three of the signatories, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, had already abolished common border controls within the framework of the Benelux Economic Union. [Citation required] Visa liberalisation negotiations between the EU and the Western Balkans (excluding Kosovo) started in the first half of 2008 and were completed in 2009 (for Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia) and 2010 (for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina). Before the total abolition of visas, the Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia) had signed in 2008 “visa facilitation agreements” with the Schengen countries. Visa facilitation agreements were then intended to reduce waiting times, reduce visa fees (including free visas for certain categories of travellers) and reduce red tape. However, in practice, the new procedures have proved to be longer, more cumbersome and more costly, and many people have complained that it is easier to obtain visas before the entry into force of the facilitation agreements. [290] [291] [292] In December 1996, two non-EU states, Norway and Iceland, signed an Association Agreement with the signatories of the Agreement in order to become part of the Schengen area. Although this agreement never entered into force, both countries became part of the Schengen area after similar agreements were concluded with the EU. [9] The Schengen Convention itself has not been signed by non-EU states. [10] In 2009, Switzerland concluded its official accession to the Schengen area with the adoption of an Association Agreement by referendum in 2005. [11] However, EU membership is much more important than Schengen. The combined effects of the customs union and the internal market correspond to a reduction in customs duties of almost 18 percentage points for goods and 7 percentage points for services.

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