Vienna, 15 November 2007 - "We Austrians and our four neighbours will enter a new era of unity on 21 December," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, expressing her satisfaction about today’s decision by the European Parliament on the Schengen enlargement. "We are working together in an area of freedom and security for almost 500 million people. Not even 20 years ago there was an Iron Curtain dividing the continent; in 36 days there won’t even be any border controls any more. Soon the fences and barriers at Austria’s borders will be a thing of the past."
"We have confidence in our neighbours to take over responsibility for security at our outer borders. This is an important pan-European task. But we have also made specific plans on our side. Federal Minister Günther Platter has concluded bilateral agreements with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia to strengthen transborder police cooperation. We have helped the new Schengen states to upgrade their security measures in terms of personnel, intensive training and new modern equipment," said Plassnik. "New and fundamental changes often arouse misgivings and fears. The Schengen enlargement is not a leap into the unknown, however, but a step that has been prepared carefully and responsibly."
"For example, Slovakia used to have just 240 police officers at its border with Ukraine; now there are 886. It has spent around 100 million Euros on Schengen measures; over 50 million come from EU funds. We have made thorough preparations for this step," concluded the Foreign Minister.
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