Saturday, 13 Dec, 2008 Current Events

Switzerland Entered Schengen Zone


Passport controls at the borders of Switzerland will no longer be a routine for EU citizens and frontier guards as on Friday the country became the 25th member of border-free Schengen zone. Its accession filled a gap in the center of the European continent which extends from the Mediterranean area up to the Artic Region.

Now travelers from Germany, Austria, Italy and France can freely go over Switzerland's frontiers as these neighboring countries have already signed the Schengen agreement. Passport controls on planes will stop in 2009, reported Associated Press.

Border guards working at Bardonnex checkpoint in Geneva were ordered to hand around 40,000 leaflets in order to prepare travelers for the new rules. Gaetan Grimand, one of the commuters, said that frontier control showed a significant improvement after Switzerland had decided to transfer to border free travel.

Non-European citizens residing in Switzerland will also get their advantages as they will not have to apply for a visa in order to get access to the area of open borders. Michel Bachar, spokesman for Geneva's border guard corps, said that Bolivian residents in Switzerland were allowed to spend about three months in France without getting a visa. Therefore, tourists from other countries, who need to stop in Switzerland while traveling to Italy or France, will have to apply only for Schengen visa.

The change didn't affect citizens of the United States as they had already received the opportunity to travel without visa through the Schengen zone.

The alterations were also introduced in the work of law enforcement agencies, which had to improve their cooperation. Switzerland received the right to use the Schengen Information System, which includes complete information about wanted offenders and stolen merchandize. Bachar described Schengen as a powerful machine, saying it helped Belgian law enforcement authorities to catch a couple, searched for kidnapping.

However, the agreement can be suspended if nationalists manage to cancel a contract between Brussels and Bern which permits citizens of European Union to reside and work in Switzerland. A referendum dedicated to this issue is to take place in February.

It's worth mentioning that Switzerland will have to patrol the frontier with Liechtenstein according to the agreement. This microstate bounded by Austria and Switzerland is planning to enter the Schengen zone by 2009. Meanwhile, its border with Switzerland which stretches for 26 miles will stay under day and night control of border patrol and closed-circuit television.

Posted by sharaeff

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