The main changes to take place after the Czech Republic has joined Schengen include:
- Abolition of border checks
- Free movement in the Schengen area
- Czech external Schengen border at selected international airports only
- Removal of obstacles to fluid traffic flows at border crossing points
- Possible temporary reintroduction of border checks
The Czech Republic abolished checks at its land borders with all neighbouring countries at midnight from 20 to 21 December 2007. Since this date, the Police of the Czech Republic has been carrying out border checks only at international airports. On 30 March 2008, checks will be removed on intra-Schengen flights and will remain only at certain international airports, namely on flights crossing the external Schengen border (non-Schengen flights).
The abolition of checks at internal borders applies equally to all persons crossing the border, i.e. both EU citizens and third-country nationals. In principle, it is possible to cross the internal borders at any place and any time; nevertheless, although no checks are carried out at the borders, everybody is obliged to carry a valid identity document, i.e. his/her ID card or passport (third-country nationals are on principle required to carry their passport).
Crossing internal land borders is not limited by opening hours of border crossing points; on the contrary, obstacles to free passage have been removed. Passing across the border shall be similar to moving inside the country. Everybody notice the sovereign territory of the neighbouring country by the already familiar blue colour sign with a circle of 12 golden stars indicating the country and later by the different language of signs e.g. at shops.
The right of free movement, however, cannot be understood as absolute; respect for some interests safeguarded by the national law has to be maintained (protected landscape areas, private property, local traffic regulations, etc.).
Since 21 December 2007, there are still areas at the borders which cannot be neither entered nor crossed. Therefore, e.g. entry into the first zones of National Parks and National Natural Reserves is continued to be prohibited with the exception of marked trails. Entry into National Parks, Protected Landscape Areas and National Nature Reserves by motor-vehicles is prohibited, with the exception of roads and local access roads. These restrictions concern approx. 5 per cent of the length of Czech state borders. Detailed information including a map can be found at the Schengen website of the Ministry of Environment.
Czech citizens, as well as foreign nationals legally staying in the Czech territory, are allowed, if meeting a few other conditions, to move around the countries of the Schengen area and cross the Czech internal border with neighbouring countries without having to stop for a border check. It is also possible to cross the internal borders off former border crossing points. Neither passengers at international airports will have to go through border checks as from 30 March 2008 when flying to or from another Schengen state.
Abolition of checks at internal borders shall open up the possibilities for travelling within the Schengen area also for third-country nationals. These travellers are authorised to move within the common area for a period of 3 months during the six calendar months following the date of first entry to the Schengen territory, and if visa is required, for the validity period of the so-called uniform Schengen visa.
The Schengen provisions further differ for different categories of persons, distinguishing between:
- Persons enjoying the Community right of free movement:
- citizens of the Czech Republic
- citizens of the European Union
- citizens of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland
- family members of persons enjoying the Community right of free movement
- Third-country nationals:
- not subject to a visa requirement
- subject to a visa requirement
- with a residence permit
- Persons enjoying international protection or applying for it (asylum seekers)
- Persons for whom an alert has been issued in the national or Schengen Information System
- Persons considered to be a threat to public policy, national security or international relations of some of the Schengen states
The abolition of checks at common borders of the „old" and „new" Schengen states has enlarged the Schengen area of free movement of persons from 15 (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Norway and Iceland) to 24 states (including the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia). Thus, it is be possible to cross Europe without stopping from the southern tip of Spain up to e.g. the northern coast of Estonia.
The only place where the Czech Republic has an external Schengen border is international airports operating flights from/to countries outside the Schengen area. On these flights, the external Schengen border is crossed and therefore checks are carried out in full compliance with the Schengen acquis. The form of these checks differs for persons enjoying the Community right of free movement and for third-country nationals.
As opposed to the land border, border checks at international airports will remain in place for flights within the Schengen area until 30 March 2008. As from 30 March 2008 only passengers flying from/to destinations outside the Schengen area will undergo a border check.
15 international airports of the Czech Republic have expressed their interest to operate non-Schengen flights; these will have to be designated as so-called international airports with the external border. The permit to operate non-Schengen flights is conditioned by the decision of the Civil Aviation Authority ascertaining that the airport meets the security standards for international airports with the external border. Five airports (Prague-Ruzyně, Brno-Tuřany, Ostrava-Mošnov, Pardubice, and Karlovy Vary) have decided to carry out reconstructions to ensure physical (construction) separation of passenger flows on Schengen and non-Schengen flights. At the only Czech airport of the "Schengen standards" - Prague-Ruzyně, a new Terminal 2 has been opened exclusively for Schengen flights.
At international airports with the external Schengen border, the presence of customs officers will also be preserved, who, since the Czech Republic's accession to the EU, have been carrying out controls of goods carried on flights arriving from or departing to countries outside the EU and its customs union. In compliance with the Schengen acquis, the checks of luggage will be carried out before departure at the airport and upon arrival at the destination airport.
For more information on Schengen provisions at international airports, see the web pages of the Ministry of Transport (in Czech).
The Czech Republic is gradually removing all obstacles to smooth traffic at road crossing points at internal borders. At roads crossing state borders and in the vicinity of present border crossing points, appropriate measures have already been adopted such as removal of road blocks, barriers or control booths. Road signs have changed and speed limits were removed - the only criterion for introducing any kind of speed limits is be the road traffic safety itself.
The Czech Police only maintain the infrastructure necessary for possible reintroduction of border checks (selected facilities at the border crossing points, areas for pulling over and turning of vehicles and areas for placing mobile offices).
For the list of former border crossing points see the web pages of the Ministry of the Interior (in Czech).
In quite exceptional cases, where there is a serious threat to public policy or national security, the government of the Czech Republic may issue a decree introducing temporary measures to protect the internal border to the extent and in a manner appropriate to the given situation. When crossing the border during this period, persons will have to respect the temporary rules and restrictions set out by the country. These measures may approximate the regime at external Schengen borders.
For more information on travel documents, see the web pages of the Ministry of the Interior (in Czech).