Cablegate: Poland's Entry Into the Schengen Zone

DE RUEHWR #2399/01 3531622
P 191622Z DEC 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: WARSAW 002337

1. On December 21, 2007, Poland will join the European
Union's Schengen area along with seven other Central European
nations and Malta. After months of preparation and
coordination with other EU members, Poland is ready to enter
the Schengen zone and, with its 1185 km eastern frontier,
defend the longest EU external border. Embassy Warsaw had the
opportunity to discuss their accession with EU member state
representatives and various government officials.

--------------------------------------------- --
Poland ---a Member of Schengen Zone
--------------------------------------------- --
2. Once Poland enters the Schengen area on December 21, land
and water border checks from Poland to other Schengen
countries will be abolished. (Note: At the airports,
passports checks will continue until March 2008.) Named after
a small village in Luxembourg where it was signed in 1985,
the Schengen Agreement also includes provisions to establish
common policies on the temporary entry of persons (i.e.
Schengen visa), the harmonization of external border controls
and cross-border police cooperation. While the Government of
Poland (GOP) will continue to combat smuggling and illegal
immigration, the border police will now work in mobile units
throughout the country instead of just on the actual border.
The Polish border patrol has said it will also be responsible
for fighting drug trafficking and the illegal removal of
cultural relics from the country.

Preparations for Schengen
3. After months of preparation, Poland is ready to enter the
Schengen zone. According to the Minister of Interior Grzegorz
Schetyna, who praised the pre-accession efforts of his
predecessor, Poland is in fact better prepared to operate
within the zone than some current Schengen members. The new
Schengen countries - the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary,
Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia and Poland - all
had to undergo numerous assessments of their readiness and
adapt their infrastructure to meet EU requirements. During
the last two years, Poland has hosted six EU evaluation
missions, two of which were airport assessments. The GOP
developed an accession plan based on their experience, the
advice of other EU members already in the Schengen area, and
the input of the EU assessment teams. Some of the reform
suggestions included language training for officers, computer
infrastructure development, mobile teams and new equipment
for green borders.

Costs and New Investments
4. To date, 1.5 billion PLN (approx. USD 600 million) has
been spent on "fortifying Poland's borders" for Schengen,
including modernization of external border controls,
acquisition of specialized equipment and provision of border
guard and police training, with significant funding from EU
resources. Norway and Switzerland also provided separate
bilateral assistance. Border Guard (BG) Headquarters staff
stressed that the GOP was required to fund at least 20% of
all projects, even those funded by the EU. Most of these
funds went towards the purchase of specialized equipment to
include: a radar system for the Polish maritime border,
surveillance vehicles, mobile/hand-held systems and thermal
cameras for the land borders. The replacement of out-dated
equipment such as computer equipment continues.

SIS Shared Database System
5. According to Ministry of Interior officials, the main
problems with Poland,s Schengen accession were not related
to physical control of the borders, but rather the
integration and upgrading of Poland,s computer systems. The
Schengen Information System (SIS) is a security database
system operated by members of the Schengen zone. SIS I is the
initial version of the system in use since the inception of
the Schengen zone. All Schengen countries contribute data to
the system through their national databases to facilitate
cooperation between police forces in the fight against
terrorism, organized crime, illegal immigration and human
smuggling. SIS stores information on wanted and missing
persons and other persons barred from entering or staying in
the zone. It also contains data on stolen goods, firearms,
and documents.

6. The SIS II is a more sophisticated version of the system

WARSAW 00002399 002 OF 003

which will feature biometric data. Although originally
planned for 2008, all countries are now expected to be
connected to the system by 2009. "SISone4all" is a compromise
information system that was proposed when it became clear
that the introduction of SIS II would be delayed. SISone4all
is an updated version of SIS I, which facilitates the
connection of new members states before the eventual launch
of SIS II. The SIS system has been operating in Poland since
September 3, 2007. Col. Roman Lubinski, Director of the
Border Trafficking Department, BG Headquarters, praised the
effectiveness of the system. Between September 3 and December
2, the BG stopped 4190 persons at border crossings and 352
inside the country with the use of the SIS system. These
numbers include persons with EU Arrest Warrants or those
barred from entering the Schengen zone.

8. Scrapping stationary border control points and passport
checks at land and sea borders with fellow Schengen members
will not weaken Poland,s security situation; instead, other
security checks will be introduced. To improve operations,
the current Polish border patrol has expanded the number and
activity of its mobile patrols. Their range of operations has
been expanded to include regions beyond the border area and
throughout the whole territory of Poland. Mobile patrols will
conduct inspections and random checks to investigate whether
certain individuals are registered as "wanted" within the EU.

9. Poland is aware that appropriate BG training is essential,
since they will be responsible for guaranteeing that the EU's
longest external border remains impermeable. There is an
ongoing training for border guard officers on the SIS system
which all entry-level officers arriving at the BG Training
Academy receive. For those already in the BG, officers are
trained under the train-the-trainer system. In addition, many
officers are now receiving English language training, keeping
in mind that Russian is still the key language for officers
working on Poland's eastern border.

10. While in some neighboring EU states such as Germany,
police and customs officers voiced their opposition to job
cuts, Director Lubinski confirmed that no BG officers will be
dismissed due to the removal of internal EU borders - nor
will there be wholesale transfers to the eastern borders.
Rather, the officers previously working on the internal
borders will be given new roles, including as part of the
mobile patrols. (NOTE: There are currently 17,000 officers
and 4,000 civilians working for the BG. END NOTE)

Eastern External Borders
11. Poland borders two countries to the east, Belarus and
Ukraine, neither one a member of Schengen or the EU. Border
inspections will be carried out as previously, although
centers have been relocated at certain border crossings.
Until recently, many of Poland,s border crossing stations
with Ukraine and Belarus were co-located on the territory of
one country, and often not on Polish territory. EU border
control officials concluded that such a situation could be
problematic, for example in attempting to enforce an EU
arrest warrant for a Ukrainian citizen caught at a Polish
border crossing station located on Ukrainian territory -
where neither Poland nor the EU has jurisdiction. Therefore,
the Polish BG has agreed to move all Polish border control
checkpoints onto Polish territory. Security measures on the
"green borders" have also undergone significant changes to
further reduce illegal activity. The GOP has set up
checkpoints every 20 km to monitor its eastern border and
built high-tech frontier surveillance centers where officers
monitor multiple plasma screens relaying pictures from
thermal imaging cameras along the length of the border.

Illegal Migrants and Refugees
12. According to BG data, between January and November 2007,
there were almost 3,000 "border crimes" committed by illegal
migrants at the Polish border. The majority of these came
from Ukraine, and according to Director Lubinski, the
Polish-Ukrainian border is a major concern for the Polish BG.
The BG is not expecting a significant change in the number of
legitimate asylum seekers (including potential refugees) to
Poland: they consider the rise in numbers from the previous
year to be a temporary phenomenon before Schengen accession.
The BG is, however, getting ready for an increase in illegal
migrants, and has just opened four deportation/holding
centers for illegal migrants.

WARSAW 00002399 003 OF 003

13. As reported in reftel, Poland,s Schengen accession will
present problems for the hundreds of AmCits who currently,
live, work and study in Poland without paper residence

14. Frontex, the EU agency tasked with coordinating
operational cooperation between EU member states in the field
of border security, established its headquarters in Warsaw in
October 2005. At this point, cooperation between Poland and
Frontex mostly consists of instructor exchanges, sharing of
information and experiences and a limited number of joint
exercises with neighbors. Poland hopes that Frontex's budget
and staff increase for 2008 will positively impact
cooperation between Frontex and Poland and the number of
exchanges will increase.

15. The GOP has shown very strong political support across
the board for the Schengen accession. In addition, the Polish
Border Guard enjoys a very strong reputation for efficiency
and professionalism among EU and European counterparts, as
well as U.S. law enforcement agencies. While frontier posts
are being torn down within the new Schengen zone and controls
are being dramatically enhanced at its eastern edge, it is
difficult for the GOP to completely assess the possible
challenges that will come with their new responsibility.

© Scoop Media

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