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More Players, More Open Borders

  • December 21st, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

schengen_00.jpgAn additional nine countries joined the passport-free zone across Europe at the stroke of midnight on Thursday (20.12.07).


Mostly new Eastern European members of the EU they will raise to 400-million the number of Europeans able to travel across internal frontiers without any regular controls for immigration or customs.

The legal arrangements for this free movement are set up under the so-called Schengen agreement signed in 1985, which started an expansion of the free travel zone.

It’s a trade-off of tradition, and anxiety about illegal immigration and crime, against economic advantages of free movement, and human rights – European leaders pointing out the free movement is much like that of citizens travelling around inside Australia or the United States.

The new states to join are the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

There were fifteen existing members, the European Union countries Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden, together with Iceland and Norway. Switzerland is expected to join in the coming few years.

The European Union has allocated an additional €1-million (A$1.66-million;, 21.12.07)for external border control facilities as a guard against any sudden push for illegal entry.


Police have been developing country-to-country cooperation and databases to move crime control away from keeping watch on national borders, but security authorities have been anxious.

Ilkka Laitinen is director of the EU border control organisation Frontex, which already struggles to maintain the frontiers – especially against pressure from trekkers or boat people coming in from the South-east or along the Mediterranean coasts.

He said this week (20.12.07) there’d been a “deliberate choice” between free movement and security aspects.

“We are going to lose a very effective instrument to fight illegal immigration,” he said.

The European Commission has been promoting the positives, organising midnight parties at frontier posts to celebrate the change, and promising easier times once the last airport checks are dropped, in March, (picture).

The EC President, Jose Manuel Barroso, said Europeans will fully enjoy “one of the most cherished liberties.”

“People will be able to drive uninterrupted from Portugal to Estonia and from Slovenia to Denmark,” he said.


BBC, Security fear as EU drops borders, 21.12.07., (21.12.07).

European Commisison, EU extends passport-free travel, 19.12.07., (21.12.07).

European Commisison, Background on Schengen enlargement, Brussels, 20.12.07, MEMO/07/619

Picture: EU promotions featured free-travel options in the expanded Schengen zone, (EC image).