Vienna, 10 November 2007 - "Europe has made a quantum leap thanks to systematic and persistent work, particularly by the ministers of the interior. Where the Iron Curtain used to exist, in less than six weeks’ time border controls will be done away with altogether," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik today in her speech at the Vienna Institute for Human Sciences (IWM). On the occasion of the IWM’s 25th anniversary the Foreign Minister organised a lunch that was attended by the former foreign ministers of Germany and Poland, Joschka Fischer and Bronislaw Geremek, as well a number of high-ranking representatives of the IWM network.
"Behind the technical sounding ‘Schengen enlargement’ is an incisive innovation with wide-ranging consequences, particularly for the people in our neighbouring countries. Nothing illustrates the epochal changes better than this event. Europe - the new Europe - means overcoming borders and lines of separation peacefully. We might recall that on 27 June 1989 Alois Mock and Gyula Horn cut through the barbed wire at Klingenbach, symbolising the real meaning behind European integration: the peaceful convergence of the continent through cooperation and a joint definition of goals," continued Plassnik. The Minister also recalled that the fall of the Berlin Wall took place 18 years ago in the night of 9 10 November 1989.
The 1250 km border between Austria and the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia will soon be like the borders with Germany and Italy today, said Plassnik. We have helped the new Schengen states to considerably upgrade their security infrastructure in terms of personnel, in-depth training and new modern equipment. In the past, for example, Slovakia had 240 police officers on its border with Ukraine; now there are 886. Slovakia has spent around 100 million euros on its Schengen measures; over 50 million come from EU resources. In other words, we have made careful preparations for this step.
Plassnik praised the work of the Institute for Human Sciences in inter-religious dialogue and in this context also touched on the subject of women and religion. "This issue should not be an academic one; on the contrary, systematic work is required here at the practical level. Religions often have difficulties in their attitudes to women. The time has come to address this issue through far-reaching dialogue," said Plassnik. Institutes like the IWM could play an important role in this respect.
The Minister stressed the need to listen to the voice of women, particularly in conflict and post-conflict situations and to grant them an equal place at the negotiating table. "This is a question of common sense and social engineering. No society can forgo the potential and creativity of women in the long term. Nor are human and civil rights ‘male’ or ‘female’. There should be no religious or traditional distinctions or discrimination anywhere in the world."
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