Switzerland has agreed to contribute CHF20.6 million ($20.6 million) a year towards a European Union fund aimed at supporting Schengen member states in protecting external borders.
The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) announced on Tuesday that Switzerland had ratified an additional agreement with Brussels to finalise its contribution to the so-called Internal Security Fund (ISF-Borders). In spring, the Swiss parliament followed the Federal Council in giving its green light.
Switzerland is not a member of the EU but, like Norway and Iceland, is an associate of the Schengen area – the European zone of border-free travel comprising 26 nations, mostly belonging to the EU.
Under the agreement, Switzerland will give CHF144 million over seven years to the ISF-Borders fund, or CHF20.6 million per year. Swiss participation will be effective from August 1.
The European fund, like its successor the External Borders Fund (EBF), gives money for projects to support Schengen states like Italy and Greece, which incur high costs in relation to the protection of Schengen external borders because of long overland or sea borders and a high volume of international flights.
The fund seeks to improve the efficiency of border controls and thus the protection of external borders and to lower the number of illegal entries.
"Switzerland benefits as an associated state from the strengthening of security throughout the Schengen area," the SEM said in the statement.
In return, Switzerland will receive CHF21 million from the Schengen fund to improve border management. There are plans to extend border control infrastructure at Swiss airports, including the installation of automated border control gates at Zurich and Geneva airports.
In June, the European Commission announced plans to double current EU security funding for the 2021-2027 period to €4.8 billion. The ISF fund will be doubled to €2.5 billion. Brussels says this increase is in response to lessons learned from the scale and urgency of the 2015-2016 refugee crisis that took Europe by surprise, and to new security threats.
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