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Czech Republic to Apply for Entry to EU's Schengen Area

The Czech Republic and its three partners in the regional Visegrad grouping, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, agreed in Brussels on Monday that they would make a joint application to join the EU's Schengen area which allows for free movement across national borders.

"With the fulfillment of certain conditions, we are prepared to submit a joint application for the entrance of our countries to the Schengen area," Czech First Deputy Interior Minister Miloslav Koudelny told the CTK news agency following the signing of the Visegrad agreement.

Provided they meet EU requirements, checks at EU borders for Czech, Hungarian, Slovak and Polish citizens could be phased out by the end of October 2007.

Koudelny stressed that it was too early to say exactly when the application would be submitted. The declaration signed by the Visegrad members, however, pledges that the signatories will be prepared to fully implement Schengen standards by the end of 2006.

According to Koudelny, the Czech Republic and its Visegrad partners agreed that by the end of this year they would seek inclusion on the list of missions to evaluate the implementation of Schengen norms.

Schengen countries include all of the EU member states prior to this May's expansion, with the exception of England and Ireland, along with Norway and Iceland. Under the terms of the Schengen Treaties, all land, sea and airport border checks between member countries are removed.

Though the Czech Republic and its Visegrad partners all joined the EU in May of this year, additional requirements must be met before they can join the Schengen area.

(Interfax 23.vii.04)

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