18th Mar 2019

Steps underway to enlarge EU's borderless zone in 2007

EU interior ministers are set to hammer out proposals to enlarge the borderless Schengen area to the new member states.

If the plans work out as scheduled, the citizens travelling to and from the ten countries will not have to undergo checks at their borders inside the Union.

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The ministers are expected to give a go-ahead to the Commission's proposals at their meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday and Friday (2-3 June).

Under the current plans, the eight new countries could join the Schengen zone in late 2007, with a different timetable expected for Malta and Cyprus.

However, all countries have to secure their part of the bloc's external borders, while the EU also needs to complete a new version of its database for sharing information on cross-border criminal activities, such as stolen cars or fugitives.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday (1 June), a Commission official said the current database - the so-called Schengen Information System - needs to be replaced by a more modern version if it is to be used by more countries.

At the moment, thirteen EU member states (excluding Britain and Ireland), plus Norway and Iceland are part of the Schengen zone.

The new information system should be extendable to 30 member states, and will be centrally managed by the European Commission.

As a whole, it will cost around 40 million euro from the common coffers, with additional costs for individual countries to implement the system.

"It will be a technological and legal challenge, but also a major budgetary challenge for the Union and the member states, if we want to adapt the changes rapidly", said the Commission official.

The database is to be used by police and border guards, as it will store data on terrorist suspects, people who should not be allowed into the Schengen area, those wanted under a pan-European arrest warrant or those wanted for an extradition to another EU state where they have committed a crime.

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