Dáil Éireann - Volume 638 - 03 October, 2007

Written Answers. - International Agreements.

Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the countries in the Schengen travel zone; the countries that have applied to join; when they will join; if there is a database of personal and confidential information on the citizens of non Schengen States shared only by the Schengen member states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22140/07]

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: The Schengen Convention, is an agreement among some European states which allows for the abolition of systematic border controls between the participating countries. It also includes provisions on common policy on the temporary entry of persons (including the Schengen Visa), the harmonisation of external border controls, and cross-border police and judicial co-operation.

A total of 30 states — including most European Union states and three non-EU states, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland — have signed the agreement and 15 have implemented it so far. Ireland and the United Kingdom have applied only to take part in the police and criminal judicial co-operation measures and not the common border control and visa provisions. Border [1654] posts and checks have been removed between Schengen area states and a common ‘Schengen visa’ allows tourist or visitor access to the area.

The fifteen states that have already implemented the agreement are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. The Eastern and Central-European states, except for Cyprus, who signed the Schengen Agreement in May, 2004 are set to implement it on 31 December 2007 for land and sea borders and March 2008 for air borders although those dates are still subject to change. These countries are the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Bulgaria and Romania aim to implement the agreement in 2011 and Switzerland aims to implement the agreement in November, 2008.

The Schengen Information System is a database accessible by competent authorities in countries that participate in the Schengen Convention and is only accessible to the extent of their participation. The most significant information held on the database pertains to details of wanted persons and misappropriated, lost or stolen objects and is not available to states that are not participating in the Convention. At EU level, plans are currently underway to extend the system to the relevant Eastern European states thus allowing free movement from these to other Schengen Member states. A new (second) generation of the system is also being developed and Ireland, along with the UK and Cyprus is scheduled to participate in this system following its development in 2009.