WARSAW - As it approaches European Union entry, Poland must tighten controls not only on its eastern border with former Soviet states but also along its southern border with Slovakia, Ryszard Czarnecki, Poland's European Integration Minister stated on February 16.
Czarnecki said the issue was a major topic in talks with Hans van den Broek, the EU's External Relations Commissioner, during his visit to Warsaw a week before, ahead of EU entry talks which begin on March 31. "We showed [van den Broek] that Poland, which is combating smuggling and organized crime on its eastern border, suddenly has a new frontier - the southern border [with] Slovakia," Czarnecki said.
Slovakia failed to be included in the first batch of former Soviet bloc countries invited to open EU accession talks, mostly because of the EU's concerns over the health of its democracy.
Czarnecki said that sooner or later, Poland will have to introduce entry visas for citizens of countries who need the document to enter the Union, but who can currently visit Poland without such papers. This would include most of its neighboring countries: Russia, the Baltic countries, Belarus, Ukraine and Slovakia.
"This step will be necessary and our neighbors know that...Poland must implement the Union's standards," Czarnecki said, adding it was too early to say when the visas would be introduced.
Earlier this year, Poland tightened some entry procedures for visitors from Belarus and Russia. This led to friction with both countries, and critics say it is harming informal exports worth billions of dollars a year by scaring off small traders who come to trade at bazaars. There have also been concerns that future visa restrictions could harm Poland's efforts to cultivate friendly relations with neighboring countries, especially Ukraine.
But Czarnecki said there were fears within the EU that unless the eastern border of the enlarged Union was very tight, its member states might want to reinstate border check-ups on internal Union borders. "Commissioner van den Broek said a very important thing," Czarnecki reported, "that if the eastern borders are not tightened, he is afraid that the EU states may turn to rebuilding their own borders."