Czech Republic becomes new Schengen member 2007-12-21 10:06:45   Print

   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 security.

    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.

Editor: Du Guodong
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