Schengen/Dublin – a common border

A border guard checks a Swiss passport and ID card
A border guard checks a Swiss passport and ID card © FDF

Efforts to safeguard internal security and manage migration flows have long extended beyond purely national boundaries. Today, European States need to take a common, coherent approach in such matters. The introduction of Schengen created a joint European area with no internal borders.

Participation in the Dublin System established uniform criteria for examining asylum applications, with each application clearly assigned to just one State. The electronic fingerprint database Eurodac makes it possible to identify persons who make more than one application and to direct them to the country responsible for their case.

The basis for Switzerland’s participation in Schengen and Dublin was laid on 26 October 2004 with the signing of the two Association Agreements. The following year, on 5 June 2005, the Swiss electorate voted in favour of participation. Switzerland’s participation in Schengen and Dublin has been operational since 12 December 2008. Since that date, Switzerland has adhered to the Dublin System. Also, since then, there have been no systematic controls on persons at Switzerland’s internal Schengen borders (at airports since 29 March 2009). From that time on Switzerland also issues Schengen visas and accepts these for entry into Switzerland.

The Dublin Area covers all EU Member States. The Schengen Area encompasses most EU Member States, with the exception of the UK and Ireland, which have opted not to implement all Schengen rules. Four other EU States (Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and Croatia) are members but do not fully apply the Schengen rules. The "associated States", i.e. Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, are the only non-EU Member States to fully apply the Schengen and Dublin Regulations.

As an associated State, Switzerland is committed to implementing further developments of the Schengen and Dublin legislative frameworks.

Switzerland’s right to shape EU decisions

In the further development of Schengen/Dublin law, Switzerland has a right to participate in shaping decisions but not a formal right to participate in making them. As part of Switzerland’s right to participate in decision-shaping, the Swiss justice minister, Federal Councillor Karin Keller-Sutter, regularly takes part in the meetings of the EU justice and home affairs ministers. This body meets to decide – as a rule in parallel with the European Parliament – on the adoption of all new laws. Once a law is adopted, Switzerland then decides autonomously whether or not it will adopt a corresponding new legal provision. In the event of non-adoption, the EU and Switzerland are required to seek pragmatic solutions. Ultimately, non-adoption of the new legal development could lead to the termination of the agreement.