Efforts to safeguard internal security and manage migration flows have long extended beyond purely national boundaries. Joint and coherent action by European states is now essential. The introduction of Schengen has thus made it possible to create a joint European area without internal borders. The Dublin system, for its part, establishes the criteria for competence to process an asylum application and harmonises national asylum practices.
The Dublin area encompasses all EU states and the four states associated with the EU, namely Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and the Principality of Liechtenstein.
The Schengen area comprises 26 states. In principle, the EU Member States and the four associated states are part of it. However, Denmark and Ireland enjoy a special status and Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Cyprus are not yet members but already apply several provisions. The associated states are the only non-EU countries to fully apply the Schengen and Dublin regulations.
Schengen constitutes a common legal framework including freedom of travel within its area, enhanced protection of the external borders and the application of common visa provisions. Rules on entry, stay and exit from the Schengen area are thus established. The legal provisions applied are regularly revised and adapted to enable the Schengen states to meet current challenges and modernise the systems in place with the aim of ensuring free movement of persons on the one hand and guaranteeing internal security on the other.
The Dublin legal system makes it possible to designate the State competent to examine an asylum application. When an asylum seeker lodges an application in a Dublin State, the latter must first check that it is competent to carry out the procedure. The aim of this system is to unequivocally attribute to a state the competence to deal with an asylum application. This gives each applicant the assurance that their application is properly examined and that it is not simultaneously under review in two countries.
Eurodac is the technical instrument for the effective implementation of the Dublin regulations. It is a database in which the fingerprints of all asylum seekers are recorded. Thanks to Eurodac, a person who has lodged several asylum applications can be identified and escorted back to the country handling the procedure.
Switzerland: consequences and right to participate in decision-making
Since 12 December 2008 Switzerland has been participating in the Schengen/Dublin system in an operational manner. The cooperation between Switzerland and European countries in the context of the association in Schengen and Dublin brings economic and financial advantages. Beyond the economic advantages, Schengen represents a basic instrument for internal security, and Dublin allows for substantial savings for Switzerland because Switzerland, due to its geographical location, is not a country of first asylum. By virtue of its status as an associated state, Switzerland is committed to adopting the developments of the Schengen and Dublin acquis. Switzerland has the right to participate in the decision-making process of these legislative developments. In accordance with this right of participation, Federal Councillor Karin Keller-Sutter, Head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police, regularly attends meetings of the EU Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA Council). The texts discussed at these ministerial meetings are prepared in various working groups of the EU institutions in which Switzerland also participates. Following the adoption of a new development by the JHA Council and the European Parliament, Switzerland decides autonomously whether or not to adopt the new legal act. In the event of non-adoption, the EU and Switzerland are obliged to seek pragmatic solutions. As a last resort, the refusal to adopt a new development of the Schengen and Dublin acquis may ultimately lead to the denunciation of the association agreements.