Cyprus is not yet ready to enter Schengen, the EU’s region of free movement, Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said on Wednesday.

The Schengen area, which is without controls at internal borders, is composed of all EU countries except Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Cyprus and Ireland, the latter being exempt. Schengen also includes four non-EU countries: Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

During a news conference in Brussels to present the commission’s new strategy with the focus on Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Johansson said the goal was to make “the largest free travel area in the world stronger and more resilient”.

Cyprus applied to join Schengen in 2019 and is being evaluated to see if it fits the technological and other criteria.

“We are preparing to move forward, but it [Cyprus] is not yet in a position to be assessed and is not considered ready to enter the Schengen area at the moment,” Johansson said in response to a question from the Cyprus News Agency.

Answering the same question, commission vice president Margaritis Schinas said in new revised strategy, the Schengen enlargement was a priority for the three countries, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia.

“As you know, the final decision is not up to us, but we constantly support this: the need for this enlargement, and we are of the opinion that the facts show that they [the three states] are ready to join,” he said.

“Now, in relation to Cyprus. It is a different situation, because you know that Cyprus also has this peculiarity with a Green Line, as well as other types of situations that have an impact,” he added.

But clearly, in the order of enlargement, Cyprus is clearly coming, Schinas said. “Yes, Cyprus remains a candidate for Schengen.”

According to the commission, the new strategy aims to ensure effective management of the EU’s external borders through the ongoing roll out of the European border and coast guard standing corps; making information systems for border and migration management interoperable by 2023; and an upcoming proposal on making visa applications and travel documents digital.

The commission is also calling on co-legislators to quickly adopt the new pact on migration and asylum proposal on screening of people crossing without authorisation.

“Schengen’s future must be marked by the expansion to those EU member states that are not yet part of the Schengen area. This is both a legitimate expectation and a legal obligation for those countries evaluated as ready for accession,” the commission said in a statement.