Switzerland will access the Schengen area on 12 December
On 12 December 2008, the Schengen area will enlarge by a new state - the Swiss Confederation. The number of Schengen states will thus increase from current 24 to 25 states; there will no longer be a white island in the middle of Europe demarcating the Swiss territory on the Schengen map.
As of 12 December 2008, the Swiss land borders may be crossed without border checks. Checks as such will however not be removed entirely. The reason lies in the fact that Switzerland does not form a part of the EU customs union and thus will continue performing customs checks on goods on its national borders. Therefore, also the infrastructure at the internal borders will remain the same. Checks should nevertheless concern only a small number of travellers crossing the border in case of suspicion that goods subject to customs control are being transported.
The abolition of border checks at the internal airports, resp. on flights within the Schengen area, is foreseen for 29 March 2009. The precondition is fulfilment of Schengen standards at the airports which will be examined in February 2009.
The decision on Swiss accession into the Schengen area was adopted by the ministers of interior at the JHA Council meeting on 27 November 2008. Subsequently, on 5 November 2008, the decision was published in the EU Official Journal and thus entered into force. The decision may be downloaded here.
Switzerland will be the only country accessing the Schengen area on 12 December. Liechtenstein will for the time being remain outside the Schengen territory, until it - similarly as Switzerland - successfully undergoes the Schengen evaluation of its preparedness to fully implement the Schengen acquis.
Due to the fact that the Swiss-Liechtenstein border will form so called EU external border as from 12 December 2008, more strict rules will apply to crossing of this border consisting e.g. of CCTV surveillance of road border crossing points, mobile patrols, joint security analysis etc.