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Slovenian Experts to Evaluate Switzerland's Preparedness for Joining the Schengen Area

Slovenian experts from the police, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Information Commissioner will lead the team of experts from the EU and EEC Member States which will evaluate the preparedness of Switzerland for entering the Schengen area. With the entry into force of the Agreement between the European Union, the European Community and the Swiss Confederation on the Swiss Confederation's association with the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis on 1 March 2008, all legal requirements were met for Switzerland to join the passport-free zone. As it is not an EU member and therefore not bound by the Schengen standards, Switzerland's interest in joining the area of the Schengen states is convincing proof of just how important the enlargement of the Schengen area is in Europe.

Like all the other candidate countries wishing to join the Schengen area, Switzerland must successfully undergo the Schengen evaluation. Switzerland expressed its readiness for evaluation as of 1 March 2008, so the process will start during the Slovenian Presidency of the EU Council, with Slovenia overseeing the evaluation procedures in the first half of 2008. The preparations for the evaluation process have already started and, provided Switzerland meets all the requirements, the process is expected to be completed by the end of 2008.

Under Slovenian leadership, experts will evaluate the areas of police cooperation, visa regime and data protection in accordance with the Schengen standards.

After all the areas have been evaluated, the EU Council working group responsible for Schengen evaluation will prepare a joint report. The report will contain suggestions for each evaluated area, recommendations for necessary improvements, and an opinion on compliance with the Schengen standards. The summary report will be discussed by the Council of the European Union, which will adopt conclusions about the evaluation and decisions on the use of the Schengen information system and on the time of lifting the border controls.

Leading the evaluation process during the Slovenian Presidency is a great commendation to Slovenia, proving that it is not only seen as a successful EU Member State, but also as an active one, which is able to participate with its experts in the development and strengthening of the area of freedom, security and justice.

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Date: 07.03.2008