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EU interior ministers approve Slovakia for Schengen

The European Union's interior ministers officially approved the enlargement of Schengen zone by nine (the EU10 minus Cyprus) new member countries, including Slovakia, on December 6. They will enter the European border-free zone on December 21.

The abolition of the border checks will first apply to only road and water border crossings, while airport checks will stop in March 2008. This difference is connected to the transition to daylight saving time, and the changing of flight schedules.

The largest enlargement of Schengen to date was originally scheduled for October this year. However, due to problems with the preparation of a new information database (SIS II), a postponement until 2009 was imminent. The database includes information on wanted criminals, missing people and undesirable aliens, as well as data on thefts, including thefts of vehicles, identity cards and weapons.

But then Portugal came up with a proposal to adopt SIS II for new EU members (SISone4all) as well, with the goal of carrying out the enlargement as early as 2007. This project is ongoing, and its launch is expected by the end of next year.

The nine countries had to undergo several assessments of their level of readiness over the past two years, and they had to adapt their infrastructure and successfully connect to the database.

The Schengen zone currently includes 13 of the EU15 {apart from Ireland and the United Kingdom), as well as another two countries outside the EU - Norway and Iceland. As of December 21, all new EU members - except for Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus - will have joined the Schengen zone.

Both Romania and Bulgaria entered the EU at the beginning of this year, and Cyprus asked for a one-year postponement because it needs more time to prepare, because of its problematic border with the Turkish part of the island.

The idea of the Schengen zone is connected with the Luxembourg village of Schengen. This is where in 1985 the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), plus Germany and France, signed an agreement on the gradual cancelling of checks at their common borders.

-TASR

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports

The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.

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