EU border-free zone stretches to new member states

In the month which sees the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Schengen agreement, the Commission has published proposals to extend the borderless zone to the new EU member states by 2007.

A necessary component of the extension, also established by the proposals of 1 June 2005, is the upgrade of the Schengen information system (SIS II) to include the new member states. SIS II, like its predecessor, is a computer database but it will have new, broader functions and capabilities. It will be used not only to facilitate free movement and for the tracking of stolen goods, vehicles and missing persons but will be an integral part of the EU’s law enforcement strategy.

The new system will contain biometric data and be used to store and disseminate information on extradition, third-country nationals refused entry to the EU and individuals subject to a European arrest warrant or under surveillance for criminal activity. Non-Schengen states, the UK and Ireland, will only have access for police and judicial co-operation matters. By a separate regulation, vehicle-licensing authorities will also use SIS II to track lost or stolen cars.

After a positive referendum vote on 5 June 2005, Switzerland has also decided to join the Schengen area. 

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