MARCH 4 2014 18:06h

Slovakia to help Croatia with Schengen border

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Slovakia will assist Croatia in preparing its land borders before it joins the Schengen zone, the Slovakian news agency TASR reported on Tuesday.

This was confirmed on Tuesday by the interior ministers of the two countries, who signed an agreement in Bratislava on mutual support in the area of Schengen co-operation, TASR said.

"We're pleased that Slovakia can be involved in building the Croatian Schengen border. The signing of the agreement today confirms the informal collaboration that has been going on for several months. A very important part of the agreement is the transfer of a sub-licence for the Schengen Information System," TASR cited Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak as saying.

Kalinak added that Slovakia will provide Croatia with information concerning, for example, the protection of the green border and checks at border crossing points.

According to Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic, Croatia wants to be ready to join the Schengen area as early as July 1, 2015 - two years after the country became a member of the European Union, TASR said.

"Our plan is to prepare the capacity of the border police and fully equip the Schengen border," said Ostojic.

Ostojic added that an evaluation of the readiness of the country will follow. The final decision as to when Croatia will become part of the Schengen area is up to the EU-member states. "We have enormous interest in joining the Schengen zone, and we want to demonstrate that we're able to come within the Schengen border," said Ostojic.

The Schengen Area comprises 26 European countries. All of the EU member states but Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Ireland and Great Britain are members of the Schengen Area. Four non-members of the EU -- Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland -- participate in the Schengen Area.