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PRESS digest: SME DAILY

"The Slovak hole in Schengen"
By Marián Leško


Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák told parliament a week ago that even though Slovakia lags behind in preparations for entering the Schengen zone, "even in Brussels the critics never mentioned us specifically". As of December 12 that is no longer true, after Czech ambassador to the EU Jan Kohout said that if Slovakia doesn't meet the end-2007 deadline for being prepared to enter the Schengen zone, the Czech Republic will impose a Schengen border between it and its former federal partner. If this happens, in 2008 we will be remembering nostalgically how good we had it on our mutual border in 2006.

The evaluation report of the European Commission in October said that we were not ready in terms of either technology or organization to take on what we had been demanding politically. The introduction of the "SISone4all" Schengen IT security system requires that all new members meet certain conditions. Unfortunately, the Dzurinda government did not meet them, and it is a scandal that the former administration did not make the required changes in border control policy or in the structure of the police corps, and that it neglected the language education of members of the border and aliens police.

The fact that a supply tender that would allow us to complete the security system on our eastern border, which was begun in 2004, has not been completed by December 2006 is not just a shame but a gross failure. The assumption of the previous government that the winner of the tender for Bratislava airport would commit in the privatization contract to meeting the Schengen conditions was also wide of the mark. By scrapping the privatization, the Fico government gave itself more work, and now must fulfill not only this task but all the others by June 2007, the date of the final EU inspection.

The Dzurinda government managed to make up for lost time under the Mečiar government and get Slovakia into the EU at the same time as its regional neighbours. The Fico government must now make up for what was neglected under Dzurinda, in order that Slovakia's failure to meet the SISone4all conditions not tear a hole in Schengen through which the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary also fall.

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