The Ministers of the Interior of the Czech Republic, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Poland and the Slovak Republic met in Prague on 11 September 2003 within the framework of the Visegrad Group in order to consider issues of the involvement of the participating countries in the Schengen cooperation.
The Ministers of the Interior presented their Schengen Action Plans reflecting the national strategies for the full participation in the Schengen cooperation. The Ministers have agreed that there are numerous spheres of common interest within this process and that further deepening of cooperation of the participating countries is highly desirable. The Ministers of the Interior have pointed out that free movement of persons, an important attribute of European integration, is further facilitated through the Schengen cooperation and it is therefore an objective of the Visegrad Group countries to achieve full participation in the Schengen cooperation as soon as possible after their accession.
In order to facilitate a smooth accession of the Visegrad Group to the EU and later to the Schengen system, the Ministers of the Interior have agreed upon the following:
- The Ministers of the Interior shall exchange their Schengen Action Plans in order to analyze possibilities of mutual approximation of those plans at the expert level with a view to achieving maximally coordinated policies in the preparation for full participation in the Schengen system.
- Having exchanged information on the activities and views regarding the reinforcement of cooperation in the area of Schengen acquis implementation, the Ministers state that it is desirable to implement certain measures in the field of police cooperation such as the Schengen institutions of surveillance, hot pursuit, joint stations, joint border guards and exchange of information prior to the Visegrad Group countries' accession and that the Visegrad Group countries are ready to deepen their cooperation in steps so as to have reached the required level by the moment of lifting controls at common borders.
- The Ministers of the Interior further state that the abolishing of controls at internal borders of the Visegrad Group countries may come into consideration in the year 2006 at the earliest and that the Visegrad Group countries regard the abolishment of controls between the Member States an integral part of the European cooperation. At the same time, however, they are fully aware of the security aspects of the lifting of controls at common borders and will therefore use utmost efforts for the elimination of possible risks.
- The Ministers of the Interior perceive the Schengen acquis on cooperation at internal border as the minimum standards, which need further developing in accordance with the national security interests and on the basis of the specific conditions of the Visegrad Group countries with a view to achieving the maximum efficiency of cooperation.
- The Ministers of the Interior state that the Visegrad Group countries shall take every effort to introduce as effective method as possible for the clearance of citizens of the Visegrad Group countries as well as the other citizens of the EU/EEA-EFTA right after the accession to the EU. To that end the Visegrad Group countries, having assessed the current state of the border-zone infrastructure, shall consider the introduction of a preferential clearance regime for the above mentioned categories of citizens. The agreements relating to preferential clearance shall be taken into account as appropriate.
- The Ministers of the Interior agree to identify, in consistency with the approximation of the Schengen Action Plans and the national strategies for full participation in the Schengen cooperation, the spheres of common interest in the EU working structures and towards the neighbouring States with a view to pushing forward their implementation. Special attention shall be paid to a dialog aimed at reinforcing of cooperation with the neighbouring Schengen States, in particular towards proper and timely preparation for full participation in the Schengen cooperation with a view to avoiding security risks associated with the abolishment of controls.
- In this context the Ministers of the Interior emphasize that it remains the top priority of the Visegrad Group countries to put into operation the second generation Schengen Information System and to enable the new Member States to integrate into it within the envisaged term in 2006, which is a precondition for the abolishment of controls at internal borders of the Visegrad Group countries and at the borders of the Visegrad countries with the existing members of the Schengen group.
- Following the approximation process of the Schengen Action Plans and the national strategies, the Ministers of the Interior shall charge competent experts with evaluating by 31 March 2004 the conditions and modalities for a possible joint submission of an application for the full implementation of the Schengen acquis.
- In order to put the agreed-upon measures into practice, the Ministers of the Interior agree to set up, under the leadership of the presidency country, a joint group of experts consisting of high-ranked officers of the Visegrad Group countries responsible for the process of accession to the Schengen system.
- The Ministers of the Interior state that the negotiation has advanced the mutual cooperation and that there exists a serious interest to resolve by mutual interaction the issues related to the preparation of the Visegrad Group countries for entering the Schengen area. They shall meet at least once a year upon the initiative of the presidency country in order to evaluate the process of preparation for the participation in the Schengen cooperation.
The Ministers of the Interior of the participating countries shall communicate the conclusions of this meeting to the Prime Ministers of their governments so that the conclusions could be further negotiated by the V4 countries top summit on 1 October 2003.