PRAGUE, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- Celebrations were held Friday along the Czech borders for the lifting of checks following Schengen expansion.
The country joined the passport-free Schengen Area at 0:00 a.m. Friday (2300 GMT, Thursday), along with eight other new European Union (EU) member states.
In Strazny, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and Bavarian Premier Guenther Beckstein jointly pressed a button to lift the border bar at a crossing on the Czech-Bavarian border.
Topolanek said the lifting of checks means not only the fall of bars on the borders but also of barriers in the minds of people.
At another crossing on the Czech-Bavarian border, Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer and his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble assured people that the lifting of border checks would by no means lower the safety of people in the border regions.
Later in the day, Topolanek and his Slovak counterpart Robert Fico celebrated the Schengen expansion in the Hodonin-Holic Czech-Slovak border crossing.
The two agreed that the guarded border which has separated the Czech Republic and Slovakia since the division of Czechoslovakia in 1993 was artificially-created and undesirable.
Along the Czech-Austrian border, the main celebration took place in Ceske Velenice, close to the Ceske Velenice-Gmuend bordercrossing.
On the Czech-Polish border, the lifting of checks was celebrated at a bridge connecting the adjacent border towns of Cesky Tesin and Cieszyn, which were once parts of a single town and separated by the new state border in 1920 following the Austro-Hungarian Empire's disintegration.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Czech Prime Minister Topolanek participated in the ceremony at the border crossing "Zittau Peace Road-Porajow." The crossing is near the German town of Zittau, which borders both Poland and the Czech Republic.
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, whose country is currently holding the rotating EU presidency, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering were present at the opening of the border.
After 9:00 a.m. local time (0800 GMT), one German and one Polish police officer jointly lifted the border barrier that divided the two countries, symbolizing the opening of the border.
"We are witnessing a historic moment," said Merkel at the ceremony.
She said the enlargement of the Schengen zone to 24 countries has facilitated the free movement of European citizens.
Socrates, who represents the EU, said the Schengen expansion isa "significant" step for the EU, which exactly embodies the idea of European integration.
After the ceremony, the leaders took a bus to a Polish-Czech border crossing just a few hundred meters away.
In a symbolic move, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Czech Prime Minister Topolanek cut the border bar dividing their countries with a saw.
"This is a great day not only for Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, it is also a great day for the whole Europe," Barroso said at the ceremony.
The Schengen Agreement, signed on June 14, 1985, is an agreement which allows for the abolition of systematic border controls between the participating countries.
The Czech Republic is now situated completely inside the Schengen area and checks have been lifted along all its 2,200 km-long border.