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Brussels, 5 March 2009

Commission adopts revised mechanism for verifying the application of Schengen rules in the Member States.

Today, the Commission adopted two proposals on a revised mechanism for Schengen evaluation. The mechanism enables verification of the application of the Schengen rules in the Member States. These proposals supplement the current mechanism and introduce unannounced visits to ensure a high level of implementation of the Schengen rules in the Member States.

Vice-president Jacques Barrot, Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security, highlighted that "Efficient application of all Schengen provisions and a high degree of mutual trust among the actors involved are essential in an area without internal borders. Only if the implementation of the Schengen rules and regulations by every Member State is transparent, effective and consistent can the system work."

The Commission proposed two legal instruments (Regulation and Decision) in order to cover the whole area of Schengen cooperation i.e. external borders, visas, police cooperation, Schengen Information System and Data Protection. The two instruments create an evaluation mechanism designed to ensure both mutual trust between Member States and the capacity to effectively and efficiently apply the Schengen provisions.

The revised mechanism also reflects the changes in the legal situation after the integration of the Schengen rules into the framework of the European Union.

The new mechanism enhances the current system of periodic on-the-spot inspections in the Member States as well as introducing unannounced visits to ensure the Schengen rules are applied correctly at all times.

Background information on Schengen

The area without internal borders as set up by the Schengen acquis — the Schengen area — was developed within an intergovernmental framework in the late 80s and beginning of the 90s by Member States willing to abolish internal border controls and implement accompanying measures to this end, such as common rules on external border controls, a common visa policy, police and judicial cooperation and the establishment of the Schengen Information System (SIS).

The Schengen area without border controls currently consists of 25 Schengen Member States i.e. Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia as well as the two associated countries, Norway and Iceland and, as of 12 December 2008, Switzerland.

The Schengen area is based on full mutual trust between the Member States in their capacity to fully implement the accompanying measures which allow the lifting of internal border controls: e.g. checks at external borders are carried out by Member States not only to protect their own interests but also on behalf of all other Member States to which people could travel once they have crossed the external borders of the Schengen area.

The current system of evaluation which has been in place since 1999 does not fully reflect the current legal situation as well as having weaknesses regarding methodology and use of risk analysis.

In the last 10 years, there have been several discussions between Member States and also with the Commission on making the Schengen evaluation mechanism more efficient, in particular concerning the second part of the mandate, namely verification of the correct application of the Schengen provisions after the lifting of internal border controls.

Additionally the Hague Programme invites the Commission ‘to submit, as soon as the abolition of controls at internal borders has been completed, a proposal to supplement the existing Schengen evaluation mechanism with a supervisory mechanism, ensuring full involvement of Member States' experts, and including unannounced inspections’.

The current proposals intend to address the identified weaknesses by streamlining the evaluation methodology and improving the follow-up. The concept of unannounced visits has also been introduced. The proposals also take into account the integration of the Schengen acquis into the framework of the European Union and provide for the participation of Member States' experts.

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