Vienna, 19 December 2007 - "The Schengen enlargement is a quantum leap in European cooperation. And our united Europe is ready for this quantum leap," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik today during a joint press conference with Interior Minister Günther Platter.
"The borders will by no means disappear, just like those with Germany and Italy did not vanish," stressed Plassnik. "But they will be given a new quality. Our borders with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Slovenia will soon be the same for the people as our borders with Germany and Italy."
Plassnik underscored the careful and precise preparation for the enlargement. "This is a conscientiously and carefully prepared chapter of European integration history." She added, however, that this does not in any way mean that the worries and fears of the population are being ignored. "We take the people’s worries very seriously. One can, however, deal with these only with sobriety, with a focus on the facts, and with precise preparatory work. Especially Interior Minister Günther Platter has undertaken tireless efforts in this direction, including a targeted development of security cooperation with our neighbours, and attention to compliance with the highest security standards," explained Plassnik, also pointing out to the close cooperation and interaction between Interior and Foreign Ministry in the preparation process.
Especially for Austria, the opening of the borders has a particular European dimension: "Where the Iron Curtain stood 20 years ago, conventional barriers will be dismantled the day after tomorrow. Our European neighbourhood will then reach a new quality. For our neighbours, this step also means that they have finally arrived in a united Europe. This constitutes an important signal."
When asked about why some Provincial Governors and in particular Governor Hans Niessl have announced that they will not take part in the celebrations for the removal of the Schengen borders, Plassnik replied: "I do not understand this decision at all, and I believe it constitutes a proof of faint-heartedness and despondency."
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