ZITTAU, Germany, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- In a symbolic
act, a German police officer and his Polish counterpart on Friday lifted the
border barrier dividing the two countries at a border crossing near the eastern
German town of Zittau.
Around 50 minutes later, Polish Prime Minister Donald
Tusk and his Czech counterpart Mirek Topolanek cut the border barrier dividing
their countries with a saw.
The above acts marked the entry of nine new European
Union (EU)member states into the Schengen zone, which eliminates passport checks
and border controls.
The nine countries are Estonia, Hungary, Latvia,
Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, all of
which joined the EU on May 1, 2004 in the "big bang" of the EU enlargement.
Their entry marked the biggest-ever enlargement of
the Schengen zone, expanding the zone from 15 countries to 24.
European leaders expressed their joy over the "big
bang" of the Schengen enlargement, saying this would push forward the process of
"Historic moment", "significant step" and "great day
for Europe" are words spoken by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European
Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
"This is a nice Christmas gift for European
citizens," said European Commission Vice-President Franco Frattini.
The Schengen enlargement is of course good news for
residents living in the nine new EU states.
Fireworks lit up the night the sky in the German town
of Frankfurt on the Oder River that borders Poland at midnight Friday(23:00 GMT
Thursday) when the German-Polish border barrier was eliminated.
Slogans like "Yes to Open Borders", "Yes to
International Train" were shouted by the audience at the border-opening ceremony
However, there are worries among the general public
in the old EU member states about the increase of illegal immigrants, theft and
organized crime from poorer neighboring nations.
Maria, a restaurant waitress in Zittau, told Xinhua
that her car had recently been stolen, and she is worried about the
deterioration of the security situation as Zittau is very close to Poland and
the Czech Republic.
"All the people I know are pessimistic, we do not
know what will happen after the borders are opened," she said.
Due to the cancellation of border controls and
passport checks following the Schengen enlargement, German border police are
worried about losing their jobs.
Last month, hundreds of police officers protested in
Frankfurt at the Oder River, asking for the postponement of the border-opening.
The police argued the government should leave the
borders in place until a security analysis had shown they were no longer needed.
"The cancellation of border checks is equivalent to
sending invitations to criminals from the east," said Scheuring, a local police
union chief, at a symposium on Thursday.
However, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble
said that opening the eastern borders to Poland and the Czech Republic did no
harm to the security interests of the country.
Germany, Poland and Czech Republic have agreed to
conduct joint patrols along the borders, sending a clear signal to the people
that the police have the situation under control and they don't need to fear.
Meyer, a bus driver in Zittau, thought differently,
saying that it is now more convenient for him to go to Poland and the Czech
Republic to ski and spend holidays.
"It is much cheaper there," he told Xinhua.
Some others are indifferent to the border opening.
An old lady in a bakery in Zittau told Xinhua that
she did not know exactly when the borders were open.
Scholars have their own observations.
"This is a profound step for European integration,"
said Sebastian Bersick, an expert on international relations from the German
Institute for International and Security Affairs.
Compared with European integration, problems like
theft and illegal immigration are smaller and can be resolved with the passage
of time, he said.
"This sent a signal to the new EU member states that
they are equal in the European Community and the people are feeling 'we are the
same in the community,'" he said.
A recent poll by the European Commission showed that
48 percent of EU citizens believe the EU is more capable of resolving problems
than their national governments, while merely 30 percent trusted their
"I'm afraid more people will trust the (European)
Union following the Schengen enlargement," Bersick said.