The relevant authorities must respond to enquiries as soon as possible and no later than sixty days after the date of the request. They must respond as soon as possible and no later than three months after the date of the request for rectification or cancellation and inform the person of the actions they have taken. When national rules provide for shorter reaction times, these shorter periods apply. Germany has no shorter reaction time. The Schengen Agreement was the first agreement to permanently remove internal border controls for people at the internal borders of the signatory states, to harmonize the process of controlling the external borders of the Schengen area and to establish a common policy for issuing visas and related measures, such as cross-border police and judicial cooperation of their Member States. The signatories to the Schengen Convention agreed that each Member State can only reintroduce common border controls in certain circumstances. Now that the Schengen Agreement is part of the Community acquis, it has lost to the EU Member States the status of a treaty which could only be amended in accordance with its terms. Instead, changes are made in accordance with the EU`s legislative procedure under the EU treaties.  Ratification by the former signatory states is not necessary to amend or repeal all or part of the previous Schengen acquis.  Acts setting out the conditions for accession to the Schengen area are now adopted by a majority of the EU`s legislative bodies. The new EU Member States do not sign the Schengen Agreement as such, but are required to implement the Schengen rules within the framework of existing EU legislation, which any new entrant must accept. [Citation required] Although not a member of the EU, Switzerland, because of its position at the heart of Europe, maintains strong economic and social relations with many Schengen states and is part of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein (other third countries within the Schengen area).
Switzerland became an integral part of the Schengen area after signing the agreement on 26 October 2004 and beginning to implement it on 12 December 2008. In December 1996, two non-EU states, Norway and Iceland, signed an association agreement with the countries that signed the Schengen accession agreement. Although this agreement never entered into force, the two countries were part of the Schengen area following similar agreements with the EU.  The Schengen Agreement itself was not signed by non-EU states.  In 2009, Switzerland officially concluded its accession to the Schengen area by adopting an association agreement by referendum in 2005.  Negotiations between Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg resulted in the signing of an agreement between the governments of the economic states of Benelux, West Germany and France on the phasing out of controls at their common borders.