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The Schengen departure terminal at Bern's Belp airport. The terminal opened in January 2012

The Schengen departure terminal at Bern's Belp airport. The terminal opened in January 2012

(Keystone)

Four years after Switzerland officially joined the European Union’s borderless Schengen zone and the Dublin accord on asylum, it has been revealed that costs of Swiss membership are almost 14 times what were originally mentioned.

In June 2005, the cabinet announced that the costs “would amount in the coming years … to an average of SFr7.4 million ($8 million) a year”.

This turns out to have been a massive underestimate, according to a report on Swiss public radio. The justice ministry said that next year the SFr100 million mark would be crossed for the first time.

Above all, the costs of the information system have shot up. But also Switzerland’s contribution to the EU’s so-called “External Borders Fund” grows from year to year.

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga admitted that the numbers were higher than expected – “and we know why: certain costs were simply not taken into account”.

Nevertheless, Sommaruga said it was now a question of strengthening cooperation with Schengen-Dublin.

“We know the Schengen zone faces complex issues – Greece for one – and Switzerland has an interest in Schengen controlling these external borders well,” she said.

In June 2005, 54.6 per cent of Swiss voted in favour of the Schengen/Dublin treaties governing closer cooperation with the EU and making travel between participating countries easier.

Switzerland and Schengen

Switzerland has been a full member of the Schengen area since March 2009.

It is one of three non-EU members; the other two are Norway and Iceland.

As such, it does not have a vote over the new proposals, although it will take part in discussions.

It will decide for itself whether to apply any new rules.

When the EU adopts new legislation, Switzerland has two years to apply it.

If it rejects it, talks are held for find a compromise.

In the case of Schengen, if Switzerland does not agree, it could be expelled from the Schengen area.

However, any change to the rules have to be approved by all the EU members and the European parliament.

The process could take several years.

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swissinfo.ch


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