EU drops border security controls with 9 more countries

Published 2 April 2008

Nine more countries enter the Schengen area as of Sunday; air border checks will no longer be necessary for European passengers to go to of from these new area members

Border controls continue to fall across Europe: The Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia entered the Schengen area last December, and had until this past Sunday to upgrade air border security requirements. Air border checks were dropped at midnight on Sunday in the European Union’s newest member states, putting the final touches to the expansion of Europe’s so-called Schengen borderless travel zone. A decision by the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council allowed for the lifting of checks at internal land and sea borders on 21 December 2007 and at air borders on Sunday night. The decision to abolish controls at airports at a later time had to do with changes in flight schedules, which are made twice a year in spring and in autumn. As one of the new states, Slovenia abolished controls on borders with Austria, Italy, and Hungary, while controls on the border with Croatia were reinforced, since this is now an EU external border. The infrastructure at Ljubljana airport’s terminals had to be upgraded in order to separate passengers on Schengen and non-Schengen flights.

From Sunday onward, border checks will only be carried out on non-Schengen flights. There will be no border checks for internal flights from one Schengen country to another. The only remaining checks will be security checks, which will be performed by a security company and not by Slovenian police. “We have to prepare ourselves to perform border checks in line with Schengen key. We were checked a few times with evaluations and confirmed that our job that we are performing here is OK”, said Andrej Zakrajsek, head of State Border Police and Aliens section at Ljubljana airport. The implementation of the Schengen regime at airports imposes a strict separation between passengers on internal Schengen flights and other passengers in international traffic. In addition to high standards of physical border surveillance and the use of the Schengen information system, the rules of Schengen external border control also require state-of-the-art technology for border checks at airports. “We had to build a new building which will enable us to practically divide the passengers, which will be international passengers and Schengen, or domestic, passengers. And for that we needed 8-thousand square meters of new premises”, said the Ljubljana airport’s general manager, Zmago Skobir.

Some passengers expressed doubts about the new rules. “Probably there will be long waits for us. Controls here will be harder, but what can we do? These are the rules”, said Al Dino, a Bosnian passenger. Many Serbs, Albanians, and Bosnians go through Ljubljana airport each day, countries which are not in Schengen.