EU gives green light for Liechtenstein to drop passport control

The principality of Liechtenstein got the green light Monday from the European Union for its long-sought admission into the world of relaxed borders of Europe’s Schengen zone. The European Council ratified the final agreement in the official acceptance process, the council said late Monday.

But the process won’t be finished until the tiny Alpine country, with its population of 36,000, shows evidence that it meets Schengen standards for data protection and police cooperation.

“The admission of Liechtenstein to the Schengen region could finally take place in the second half of 2011, when Poland has the EU presidency,” said Liechtenstein’s Interior Minister Hugo Quaderer. Entry into the Schengen agreement means not only that systematic passport controls at the border are done away with, but also that Liechtenstein commits to working more closely with police and justice officials of other member states.

The tiny country, bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and Austria to the east, is not a member of the European Union. After successive expansions, the Schengen agreement now includes 25 countries, including the 22 members of the EU as well as the associate members Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.