EU to drop border controls with new members

5th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

5 December 2006, Brussels (dpa) - European Union ministers on Tuesday clinched a deal which will allow the bloc's new member states gradually to join Europe's borderless travel system as of December 2007. Interior ministers agreed to lift controls at land and sea borders between the EU's old and new member countries starting December 31st 2007, provided that the newcomers meet border and customs standards. Checks at airports would have to be dropped as of March 2008. The countries to join the so-called Sch

5 December 2006

Brussels (dpa) - European Union ministers on Tuesday clinched a deal which will allow the bloc's new member states gradually to join Europe's borderless travel system as of December 2007.

Interior ministers agreed to lift controls at land and sea borders between the EU's old and new member countries starting December 31st 2007, provided that the newcomers meet border and customs standards.

Checks at airports would have to be dropped as of March 2008.

The countries to join the so-called Schengen zone are Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The Schengen agreement removes border posts and checks between European states. It allows for common policy on the temporary entry of persons and the harmonisation of external border controls.

Czech interior minister Ivan Langer told reporters that his country would "not have any problems" to meet Schengen area security requirements next year.

"We already guard our borders according to Schengen standards," said Slovenian interior minister Dragotin Mate. Security rules at airports, however, would still have to be improved, he added.

His Slovakian counterpart Robert Kalinak acknowledged that his country would have to make substantial efforts to meet Schengen security standards. He also said Slovakia would allocate more money for securing its border with Ukraine.

The mostly eastern European newcomers in the 25-nation bloc were told last year that their Schengen entry, originally planned for 2007, was in doubt due to technical delays with an update for the EU's central visa information system.

Some new members, however, had said that the reasons were more political, charging old EU states of trying to block the eastern expansion of the border control-free zone.

Germany and France had insisted that the new member states must demonstrate that their non-Schengen frontiers are secure.

Under today's decision, the EU's newcomers which joined the bloc in 2004, will be allowed to link into the old visa database until the succeeding version is launched.

Costs for this interim solution are estimated at some 3.6 million euros (4.8 million dollar).

The new European visa scheme, known as the Schengen Information System (SIS II), will include biometric data such as fingerprints.

The Schengen zone was established by treaty in 1985.

So far, 26 countries - including all EU members except Ireland and Britain, but including non-EU members Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland - have signed the agreement and 15 have implemented it.

The 10 countries which joined the EU in 2004 have all ratified the treaty, but have not yet implemented it. They are Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus.

DPA

Subject: German news

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