On the night of Dec. 21-22, Poland will enter the so-called Schengen Zone.
For the first time no identity card or passport will be needed to cross the Polish border with any other country of the EU.
There will be, however, one exception.
Even though Polish and Slovak citizens will be free to cross their common border without any controls, in the Tatra National Park this will not be possible due to wildlife conservation regulations.
Authorities of the Slovak portion of the park state that joining the Schengen Agreement will not force any changes that might harm the park.
Officially only one border crossing point exists in the Tatra National Park. It is located near the peak of Rysy, the highest mountain in Poland with an elevation of 2,499 meters.
Every year the crossing is closed from Nov. 1 to June 15. Tourists who are found to have strayed across the border are returned to Poland.
In the park many hiking trails in Poland and Slovakia meet at the border, but it is illegal to cross to the other country.
The Schengen Agreement will not change this. Slovak park employees fear that the reopening of the cable car to Kasprowy Wierch, a popular tourist destination, in December would mean more illegal border crossings in the area.
Slovak park authorities plan to launch an information campaign in the area around the city of Zakopane, where most Polish tourists begin their mountain hikes.
They will caution against illegal border crossings and make people aware of the negative consequences of increased tourism for wildlife.
The number of tourists visiting the Polish part of the park increases every year. In July of 2007, 20,000 people entered the park daily during good weather. The Polish part of the park has an area of just 211 square kilometres, with 145 kilometres of tourist routes.
The Schengen Agreement was signed in 1985 by seven countries. By 2001 six other EU members had joined it, plus non-EU nations Norway and Iceland.
The agreement eliminates internal border controls and sets up a common policy on external borders. Great Britain and Ireland haven’t signed the agreement.