FECL 41 (February 1996):


In April 1995, Austria signed the Schengen Agreement. The country has bound itself to comply with all Schengen requirements as of the beginning of 1998. The Austrian Interior Ministry is now preparing an impressive set of organisational and technical measures aimed at improving controls and surveillance at its eastern and south-eastern frontiers, the future external borders of the Schengen territory.

Under the Schengen Implementing Agreement (SIA), controls at the member states' common internal borders shall be abolished, but, at the same time, controls at external borders (i.e. a Schengen member state's borders with non-member states) must be massively sharpened. Austria has long external borders with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia. The Interior Ministry seems to be well aware of the country's future role as the Schengen Group's eastern watchdog and is making particular efforts in order to tighten its eastern and south-eastern frontiers.

As from 1998, at external borders every person without exception will be subjected to an identity control including a passport check by an automated reading machine linked to the Schengen Information System (SIS). "By then, there will and can no longer be any `nodding through'", says Major Oscar Stromeyer, the head of the border service department at the Interior Ministry. At all external border-crossing points there will be separate lanes for EU and EEA citizens on the one hand and "third country nationals" on the other. The latter will be subjected to additional and lengthier checks, including U.V.-screening of passports and visas, and checks of financial means and vehicles.

All external border-crossing points will be equipped with the following technical devices:

This impressive rearmament will be accompanied by a thoroughgoing reorganisation of the border control forces.

According to the plans of the Interior Ministry, Customs will no longer have border guard functions and the use of the army for border surveillance purposes will come to an end. Instead, the Gendarmerie (assigned to the Interior Ministry) will alone be responsible for border checks and surveillance.


Source: Der Standard, 10.1.96.