Developments

Switzerland has decision-shaping rights in regard to further developments of the Schengen acquis. This is significant because decisions are generally taken by consensus. It means that Switzerland can participate in shaping such developments and defend its interests directly in expert discussions or at ambassadorial or ministerial-level meetings.

Every time the EU passes a new legal act of relevance to the Schengen/Dublin acquis, Switzerland must decide, in accordance with Swiss parliamentary and direct democratic processes, whether it intends to adopt it. Since the signing of the agreements on 26 October 2004, the EU has notified Switzerland of 240 further developments of the Schengen acquis. In the majority of cases, the content is of a technical nature or limited in scope and so the Federal Council can directly approve or take note of them.  This leaves only around 35 legislative developments requiring parliamentary approval.

If any one of these is not implemented in Swiss law, the two agreements between Switzerland and the Schengen and Dublin states will cease to apply – unless the joint committee decides otherwise within 90 days. The joint committee comprises representatives of Switzerland, the European Commission and all EU member states. Any decision to uphold the agreements would have to be unanimous. To date, these contractual provisions have never been applied.

The following legislative developments are currently at the parliamentary approval stage. The ongoing and completed consultations and the respective Federal Council dispatches in relation to Schengen/Dublin are available online.

1. Introduction of a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) (Regulation (EU) 2018/1240)

In future, travellers from non-EU/EFTA countries who do not require a visa for the Schengen Area will have to apply for travel authorisation in advance. The application can be submitted online and costs around seven EUR. The information in the application is automatically checked against various security and migration databases (including Schengen Information Systems). This will determine whether there are grounds for refusing entry. In most cases, the automated application process will not report a hit, and the travel authorisation can be issued within minutes. It then remains valid for up to three years. ETIAS will make it possible to determine the eligibility of visa-exempt third-country nationals before travelling to the Schengen Area and, if necessary, refuse their travel authorisation. This will help to improve internal security, prevent illegal immigration and protect against public health risks. A similar system is already in use in the US, for example, with the ESTA travel authorisation.

  • The Federal Council approved the adoption of this further development on 10 October 2018, subject to parliamentary approval, and opened the consultation process on 13 February 2019.
  • The adoption of the regulation must next be approved by Parliament. The Federal Council dispatch to this effect is expected in spring 2020.

REGULATION (EU) No. 2018/1240

2. Modernisation of the Schengen Information System SIS II (Regulations (EU) 2018/1860, 2018/1861 and 2018/1862)

SIS is a database for recording stolen property and persons wanted for arrest for extradition, persons subject to an entry ban and missing persons. In 2017 alone, Switzerland obtained some 17,000 national and international search hits using SIS, which helped to prevent irregular migration, detect crimes and locate missing persons. These three regulations (SIS II package) now provide for a more complete search for suspected terrorists and improved protection of vulnerable minors and adults. Return decisions can now also be entered in SIS. These further developments thus widen the scope of application of the Schengen system, already a key search instrument in Switzerland's security landscape.

  • The Federal Council approved the adoption of this development on 19 December 2018, subject to parliamentary approval, and opened the consultation process on 13 February 2019.
  • The adoption of the regulations must next be approved by Parliament. The Federal Council dispatch to this effect is expected in spring 2020.

REGULATION (EU) No. 2018/1860

REGULATION (EU) No. 2018/1861

REGULATION (EU) No. 2018/1862

3. Interoperability of the Schengen databases (Regulations 2019/817 and 2019/818)

Regulations (EU) 2019/817 and (EU) 2019/818 establish the improved exchange of information (interoperability) between the various information systems in the areas of border, migration and police, so that in future the competent authorities will always have the information relevant to them. The systems of relevance to Switzerland are: SIS (Schengen Information System), VIS (Visa Information System), Eurodac (fingerprint database for asylum seekers), EES (Entry-Exit System) and ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System). The facilitated exchange of data is intended to help to improve security in the Schengen area, enable more efficient controls at the external borders and contribute to preventing and combating irregular migration.

  • The Federal Council approved the adoption of the further developments on 14 June 2019, subject to parliamentary approval, and opened the consultation process on 9 October 2019.
  • The adoption of the regulations must next be approved by Parliament. The Federal Council dispatch to this effect is expected in the first half of 2020.

4. Reform and strengthening of the mandate of the European Border and Coast Guard (Regulation 2019/1896)

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (EBCG, Frontex) will be given an enhanced mandate and is to have a standing corps staff of up to 10,000 by 2027. Its mandate for external border control, return and cooperation with third countries will also be strengthened. During the negotiations on the revised regulation, Switzerland successfully argued for the size of the standing corps to be reviewed in 2023. The protection of the European external borders remains primarily the responsibility of the individual Schengen states.

  • On 13 December 2019, the Federal Council approved the adoption of the new EU Regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard, subject to parliamentary approval, and opened the consultation process.
  • The adoption of the regulation must next be approved by Parliament.

REGULATION (EU) No. 2019/1896