Czech Republic will join Schengen zone in January 2008
Czechs planning to travel around Europe next year will have one thing less to worry about - they will be able to leave their passports at home. The long awaited accession to the Schengen Agreement, which guarantees the citizens of all member countries unrestricted travel, will happen in the first moments of New Year's Day 2008.
"From next year on, we will be full-fledged members of the European Union. Traveling within the EU, Czech citizens will need no passports or identification cards; they will have to undergo no checks. The symbolic meaning of this move comes close to the cutting of barbed wire after 1989. At that time, the state stopped preventing its citizens from traveling. In 2008, the Schengen countries will stop inhibiting Czech citizens from moving without restrictions, which is one of the four fundamental liberties of the European Union. Entering the Schengen area is an important step towards full membership in the EU."
The Czech government is now launching an "information campaign" that should explain everything about the country's accession to the Schengen Agreement. In a situation when 78 % of the country's population, according to a poll for the Interior Ministry - sees the accession to the Schengen treaty as positive, the government will not have many easier tasks to deal with. But Interior Minister Ivan Langer says there are a few things that need to be done before January 1, 2008.
If all goes well, the old member countries get their information systems together and the eastern Schengen border is secured, you will no longer be asked anything leaving the Czech Republic, or arriving in it. Seen from Prague's perspective, the only major complication will concern those members of the local expatriate community who have to leave the country every three months to get their passports stamped. Instead of making a pleasant day trip to Dresden, Vienna or Bratislava, they should get ready to explore the charms of some more distant countries.