¡¡PRAGUE, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- The Czech Republic officially
lifted its border checks at midnight Thursday, becoming a new member of Europe's
passport-free Schengen zone.
As frontier checks have formally ended, Czech
citizens can travel freely across almost the whole Europe from Friday.
Czechs celebrated the event at many places along the
2,200-km-long border from Thursday noon until midnight.
The Czech and Austrian interior ministers, Ivan
Langer and Guenther Platter, joined hundreds of people who were celebrating the
lifting of border checks between the two countries at the Mikulov-Drasenhofen
border crossing at midnight, according to the Czech news agency CTK.
The celebrations culminated in a symbolical switching
on the green light on a semaphore. At this historical moment, the Czech,
Austrian and EU anthems were played.
"When we entered the EU in 2004, this still was not
enough. Only now we are full-fledged Europeans," Langer said.
Platter said that the long division of Europe has
been overcome now and that the Schengen area is important for both freedom and
Residents of Mikulov ascribe a rather symbolical
meaning to the abolition of border checks.
"This is rather a great psychological moment. And a
number of things will become easier, after all. Tourist can cross the border
anywhere and farmers can use field paths to visit their colleagues in the
neighbouring country," Mikulov Mayor Rostislav Kostial said.
Earlier, Langer and his Slovakian counterpart Robert
Kalinak, symbolically cut a bar at the border crossing in Stary Hrozenkov on the
eve of the two countries accession to the Schengen area.
Hundreds of Czechs and Slovaks met at the
Czech-Slovak border crossing to attend the solemn "removal of borders".
The ceremony included a toast and a firework, and
"Schengen goulash" was served.
Czechs also held similar celebrations at the borders
with Germany at the same day.
All nine new EU members, including the Czech
Republic, are ready to introduce the Schengen system at their land borders by
Dec. 21 and international airports by the end of next March.