On Friday 21 September, a team of 14 foreign experts arrived in the Czech Republic to conduct the last test of the readiness of the Czech Republic for its full integration in the Schengen area. It is the last in a series of evaluation missions carried out since the beginning of 2006, the successful conclusion of which is the precondition for adoption of the EU Council Decision on abolition of checks at the internal borders by the JHA Council during its forthcoming meeting on 8 and 9 November.
The evaluation is focused on the use of the Schengen Information System (SIS) which contains a common database of data on some persons (persons wanted for the purpose of an arrest, missing persons or undesirable third-country nationals) and objects (stolen vehicles, documents, firearms) entered and used by authorities of the Schengen states. The SIS has been fully operational in the Czech Republic since 1 September 2007 and forms an integral part of work of the police, customs, judicial and other authorised authorities.
The Czech Republic is being evaluated by a team of representatives of both the current and to-be Schengen states, the European Commission and the Council General Secretariat. The leading expert represents Portugal which is currently presiding the EU and which is also the author of the SISone4all project enabling the connection of the new Member States to the SIS.
During the evaluation lasting until the 24 September, the most important workplaces ensuring the operation of the SIS in the Czech Republic will be visited, such as the SIS Bureau responsible for the technical aspects of the Czech national part of the SIS (System Controls and Informatics Division of the Police Presidium) and the SIRENE Bureau ensuring the communication with foreign partners (International Police Cooperation Division of the Police Presidium).
The practical use of the SIS by the authorised end users will also be evaluated. As the Police are the main user of the SIS in the Czech Republic, the main attention will be paid to the use of the SIS by police officers. The evaluation committee will also visit the Prague Airport which will form the external Schengen border and will apply related strict rules for border checks on third-country nationals. Apart from Prague, the experts will also go to Plzeň to visit the West Bohemian Region Police Administration, the operational centre and local unit of the Criminal Police and Investigation Service. An unexpected visit to selected police stations is also on the agenda.
The evaluation of the Czech Republic forms a part of the SIS evaluation in all 9 new Member States aiming at joining the Schengen area on 31 December 2007 (i.e. the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania). The evaluation takes place from 16 to 30 September and is conducted in groups of 3 states. The Czech Republic is being evaluated in a group together with Poland and Malta.
The final reports from all 9 evaluation missions will be officially presented and discussed on 25 - 26 October at the meeting of the Council Working Party on Schengen Evaluation, which has a mandate to evaluate the readiness for the full participation in the Schengen cooperation.