Switzerland to join Schengen area

Switzerland will join the Schengen area on 12 December. The interior ministers of the 27 EU member states reached this decision in Brussels last Thursday.

This means that people will be able to move freely between Switzerland and the other countries that are party to the Schengen Agreement. Border controls for people travelling between Switzerland and its EU neighbours by land will be abolished on 12 December. Border controls for air travellers will be abolished on 29 March 2009.

Twenty-four countries are currently party to the Schengen Agreement. Apart from Iceland and Norway, they are all members of the European Union. Switzerland will be the 25th country to sign the Agreement. The Swiss voted to do so in a referendum in 2005.

The Schengen Agreement is named after the village in Luxembourg where it was signed in 1985. Schengen lies near the point where the borders of Luxembourg, France and Germany meet. The Netherlands has been part of the Schengen area since that date.