Schengen Inspection Coming to Croatia, Zagreb Airport Not Ready?

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If Croatia wants to enter the Schengen Area, it will have to improve its border controls.

Croatia intends to join the Schengen Area as soon as possible, but much depends on whether it has fulfilled all the strict European criteria. The border must be impermeable, and there are special rules for airports which must be obeyed. Inspectors from Brussels will arrive in control in November. According to unofficial information, the particular focus will be put on the Zadar Airport, where the greatest number of errors has been noted in previous visits, as well as on the Franjo Tudjman Airport in Zagreb, reports on September 22, 2017.

When European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said in his annual speech on the state of the European Union that Croatia should be admitted to Schengen when it meets the criteria, it was a message to those who might use political pressure, primarily Slovenia and Hungary, that they should think twice. But, the entry into Schengen is not just a matter of politics; it is, above all, a technical issue. If Croatian borders, airports and seaports are not completely ready to defend the EU’s external borders, entry into Schengen could be delayed.

The process of adjusting to Schengen rules is near its end. Of the 120 million euros which have been allocated to Croatia to institute effective controls of the external borders of the EU, Croatia has used 119 million euros. Police stations in border areas have been renovated, special buses bought, police helicopters, radars, scanners, cameras, boats, cars…

In two months, European experts responsible for supervising the implementation of Schengen rules will arrive in Croatia. This may be the last and crucial check before they give the green light. Last year, they issued 98 recommendations, most of which have been corrected. However, the focus will this time be on security at airports, especially in Zadar, which has seen the worst results in the past.

The largest Croatian international airport, the one in Zagreb, will also be under the spotlight. Although it has a completely new terminal building, it has not been adapted to the strict rules of the Schengen regime. Some of the issues have not been resolved, so it can be assumed that prior to November the airport will try to patch the segments which are not in line with the rules. These will mainly be relatively small technical interventions that can be done in a week or two. Therefore, it is unclear why the issues have not been solved earlier.

Security at the airport has been questionable, which has been proven by incidents that have taken place and which will certainly be of interest for the European inspectors. For example, one late passenger has been able to open the gate door with the help of an emergency button and run across the tarmac, stop a vehicle carrying luggage, board it and reach the airplane. He was later allowed to board the plane.

Still, there is good news as well in addition to Juncker’s call. Croatia has been surprisingly successful in the implementation of the Schengen Information System (SIS), which started at the end of June this year. A four-day assessment of Croatia’s efficiency of the use of the system will end today. Croatia has shown exceptional results from the very beginning, much better than many other countries.

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