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

The Schengen Association Agreement was approved by the Swiss electorate in 2005 and has been in effect since December 2008 (since March 2009 at airports). It facilitates travel between Switzerland and the European Union (EU) through eliminating identity controls at the borders between Schengen member states, the so-called internal borders.

To enter the “Schengen Area” it is necessary to have a Schengen visa which authorises the holder to enter and leave all Schengen states during the validity of the visa. At the same time, a series of measures improves international cooperation between justice and police authorities in the fight against crime, including security measures such as tighter controls at Schengen external borders. In some cases these controls are carried out in cooperation with the EU border protection agency FRONTEX, through closer cross-border police cooperation such as the EU-wide reporting and investigation system, SIS II, or through more efficient cooperation between justice authorities.

At Switzerland’s borders, the Swiss Border Guard continues to carry out controls on goods because Switzerland is not part of the EU Customs Union. As part of these customs controls and for self-protection, checks on suspicious persons may also be carried out.

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 Simonetta Sommaruga, 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 in the area of the Schengen Agreement. 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.

The Dublin Association Agreement, which was approved by the Swiss electorate at the same time as the Schengen Association Agreement and has been in force since March 2008, determines which state in the “Dublin Area“ is responsible for processing individual asylum applications. The purpose of this agreement is to prevent the possibility of an application submitted by the same person being processed in several Dublin states at the same time. 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.