Experts in Brussels have agreed that all nine newcomers to the Schengen zone, which include Malta, are ready to join. Neurope.com reported Portuguese Deputy Interior Minister Jose Magalhaes saying that „it is not a vague conclusion - it means each and every state is prepared.”
While the evaluation report, to be made public in November, includes recommendations, „none of them implies that the states have not done their homework,” he said. The European Parliament was thus expected to approve the enlargement in December and EU interior ministers would follow suite in the same month.
Nine of the 10 countries that joined the EU in 2004 would be then allowed to join the zone as soon as December 21, when land and sea border controls would be scrapped. Air borders would stay put until March 31, 2008 as planned, neurope.com reported. Meanwhile, the site reported that eighteen interior ministers of current and upcoming member states of the borderless zone met in Prague to debate how all Schengen members adopt an upgraded version of the zone’s information system, one of the key requirements for the area’s expansion.
All current and future Schengen members have been connected to the system, through which since August 31 they have been sharing information such as data on missing or wanted people. As it became clear that waiting for a new generation of the information system would delay the expansion, Portugal suggested connecting the newcomers to an updated version. The members-to-be are the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Cyprus, which also joined in 2004, will not be joining, neither will Bulgaria and Romania, which became EU members in 2007. (maltamedia.com)