THE NEW EU member states, including Slovakia, will join the European Union's border-free Schengen zone in December 2007, the Union's interior ministers decided in Brussels on December 5.
Checks at internal EU border crossings and sea ports will be abolished by December 31, 2007 at the latest, while those at airports for flights originating within the EU will be stopped by the end of March 2007. However, this is under the condition that the countries concerned will be ready for the change.
"It was decided that a compromise would be made, which would make it possible to abolish border controls by the end of next year. In any case, the question of security at the EU's outer borders still has to be resolved, which is also our job. The last report says that we have some shortcomings, and not just minor ones, when it comes to the preparations that we've made in this area. But it has to be said that many of the issues that the report mentioned have already been dealt with," said Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák.
According to the original schedule, the new EU-member states were to join the Schengen zone in October 2007 after the introduction of a new central information database known as SIS II. Technical problems with the database caused delays, however, meaning that it will not be ready until June 2008. Earlier this year, EU officials began saying that this meant that border checks for new EU-member states could not be abolished until 2009.
Criticism of the delay by the new EU members lead Portugal to propose that the countries be hosted on the current database for a limited period.
Kaliňák said the compromise was the only way to resolve the issue, which could have blown up into a bigger crisis for the EU than the failure to adopt the European Constitution.
- Martina Jurinová