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Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC)
Home  > Public Services  > News  > Portugal Helps New EU Countries to Join Schengen Area in 2007

Portugal Helps New EU Countries to Join Schengen Area in 2007

 - 01/09/2007

The European Council and the Hague Programme set the political objective of ensuring the New Member States (MS) of the EU25 could join the Schengen Area by October 2007. The Schengen Area, which ensures free movement of people without controls at MS’ borders, currently covers the EU15 countries, with the exception of the United Kingdom and Ireland, and also includes Iceland and Norway, which do not belong to the EU.

If it were not for Portugal’s initiative, a purely technical problem would have made it impossible to achieve this target in 2007. In actual fact, the plan was for the new MS to use a new technological version of the Schengen Information System (SIS II) that was being developed to be introduced in mid-2007, although already 17 months late. The idea was to replace the Schengen Information System (SIS I), which was developed in the 1990s. However, this project was delayed and the European Commission reported in September 2006 that it would be technically impossible for SIS II to be operating before mid-2008 with the end result being that the entry of the new MS in the Schengen Area would be postponed until the end of December 2008 or even 2009.

 Portugal developed a modified version of SIS I, which it named SISone4ALL, and suggested to the new MS that they use it so they would be able to enter the Schengen Area in 2007. Nine of the new MS accepted this proposal to use the SISone4ALL system developed in Portugal, namely Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia. In addition, despite not belonging to the EU, Switzerland decided to take this opportunity and plan its own entry into the Schengen Area using SISone4ALL without waiting for SIS II.

In this way, Portugal announced at the Informal Council in Tampere on 21st – 22nd September 2006 that it was preparing a transitory technical solution for the problem based on what was done when the Schengen Area was enlarged with the entrance of the Nordic countries. The European Council of 4th – 5th December 2006 decided to accept Portugal’s proposal, as the alternative of waiting for the SIS II to come on stream would only allow the new countries to enter the Schengen Area in 2009, although it was not clear if there would be additional delays.

A ceremony was held in Lisbon on 27th March 2007 where Ministers for the Interior of the aforementioned new MS were given a kit with SISone4ALL and instructions on how to install it in these States.

Work on installation, migration and testing of systems cloned from the Portuguese SIS I and the central system installed in France was concluded on 31st August. A ceremony at the SEF marked the conclusion of the formal and informal technical tests and migration to SISone4ALL.

Evaluation of proper use of this system will start in each MS in September to make sure land and sea borders can be opened by the end of the year.

Once the Portuguese Government had voiced its wish to find a technical solution that would allow new MS to enter the Schengen Area before the end of 2007 and after the difficulties that would need to be dealt with to speed up the SIS II development process or an alternative solution for adapting SIS I to SIS II had been presented before the Informal Council in Tampere, Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC,  put forward the solution of extending use of SIS I to the new MS, as had been done when the Nordic countries entered the Schengen Area. This proposal was shown to be technically feasible and was made politically viable by the Portuguese Government’s commitment in the European Council. Technically, it was realised by the company Critical Software in collaboration with the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF - Foreigners and Borders Service) of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Last updated ( 16/07/2010 )