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Croatia to apply to join Schengen visa scheme

ZAGREB, March 5 (Xinhua) -- Croatia has decided to apply to join the Schengen visa scheme, Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said on Thursday, adding that the entry into the passport-free area is in the country's strategic interest.

Ostojic made the remarks after a declaration on the country's preparedness for the start of the Schengen visa scheme had been adopted by a government session. But he said a final decision would rest with Brussels.

The declaration will be submitted by Ostojic in Brussels next Thursday. However the country could only apply to join the Schengen area after two years since its accession to EU, namely on July 1.

The evaluation procedure will last one and a half years, Ostojic said, adding it depended not only on a country's technical readiness but also on a decision from Brussels.

Bulgaria and Romania entered the EU and applied for Schengen area earlier, but they still have not joined visa scheme, he said.

Schengen evaluation and monitoring mechanism includes all aspects - visa policy, the Schengen Information System, data protection, police, customs cooperation, judicial cooperation in criminal matters and absence of border control at internal borders.

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