In a referendum on 5 June, 55 per cent of the Swiss voted to enter the EU’s Schengen area, an agreement initially signed in 1985 to remove passport controls at Europe’s internal borders.
The vote also meant approval of the Dublin accords, which set out minimum humanitarian standards for the treatment of asylum applications in the EU. The Dublin accords also seek to prevent so-called asylum shopping by allowing the authorities to turn down applications which have already been refused in one of the other member states. Swiss authorities estimate signing up to the accord would reduce asylum applications by 20 per cent in the country.
According to the federal department, Switzerland would join the Schengen area in 2008 when the Schengen Information System (SIS II) database is in place. The system contains information such as the identity of criminals on the run, asylum seekers and stolen cars.
The Swiss have planned another referendum on 25 September 2005 to extend an open border area to the ten countries that joined the EU in May 2004. The EU-10 countries would themselves join Schengen by 2007.
Controls for goods at the EU-Swiss borders will continue to apply.