On 21 December 2007 passport checks were abolished on Poland’s border to Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania by a decision of the European Parliament – all this on account of an extension of the Schengen area to admit nine new states, including Poland.
The Schengen area is a zone which comprises the territories of individual EU Member States where specific rules of the Schengen Agreement apply with regard to border security, citizens’ personal data protection, reciprocal cooperation between the signatories’ law enforcement services, issue of visas to foreign nationals, as well as participation in the so-called Schengen Information System (a common electronic database of persons and property) etc. Close cooperation of the services responsible for citizens’ security in a broad sense leads to improvement of the general public security level, including crime combating and prevention.
The present-day Schengen area comprises the following states: Belgium, France, Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Greece, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, as well as Iceland and Norway. Still beyond the Schengen area are the United Kingdom and Ireland. Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Switzerland are in the process of implementing the Schengen acquis.
As a result of Poland’s accession, Polish citizens may now freely travel within the Schengen area, which by now stretches over a vast part of the European continent. The abolishment of border checks was intended to eliminate waiting for a clearance, and thus to make traveling easier and faster. Border-crossing between the Member States of the Schengen Group is now allowed at any place and any time. Together with the abolishment of border checks, visa procedures were harmonized, including the rules for issuing visas to third-country nationals. As a part of a process of adjustment to the EU common visa policy, Poland waived its visa requirements for citizens of the states covered by the EU visa waiver program. With regard to some of these, including the US, Canada and Australia, measures are currently being taken in order to ensure their reciprocity. The abolishment of checks on the Schengen area’s internal borders means that, at the same time, the control is strengthened on the external borders – in the case of Poland, these are the borders to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
According to immigration and visa rules, while traveling, it is recommended to hold an identification which confirms one’s citizenship of an EU Member State. While no identity checks are conducted for persons crossing a state border, they may still be conducted at random all across the Schengen area.
For more information see www.mswia.gov.pl