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Schengen zone celebrated at tri-country border

Celebrations of the Schengen zone entry of nine EU countries culminated on December 22 at the border crossings of three countries - Slovakia, Hungary and Austria.

Celebrations of the Schengen zone entry of nine EU countries culminated on December 22 at the border crossings of three countries - Slovakia, Hungary and Austria.

At the border crossing Hegyeshalom - Nickelsdorf, around 30 kilometres from Bratislava, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány and Austrian Interior Minister Günther Platter celebrated with the President of the European Commission José Barroso and Portuguese Prime Minister José Socrates the expansion of the passport-free zone.

All the politicians hailed it as momentous for all European countries and a celebration of freedom and democracy. Gyurcsány thanked everyone who believed in such a courageous dream. His Slovak counterpart was thankful for this "wonderful Christmas present for all inhabitants of Europe".

Barroso said that the entry into the Schengen zone is symbolic, but has far-reaching effects. The removal of borders is a matter of trust, and now we can trust each other in the unified Europe, he said. He is looking forward to a new Europe, united in peace, freedom and democracy.

Border controls were abolished at midnight from December 21 to 22 as the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, as well as the Mediterranean island of Malta, joined the 15 nations already in the Schengen zone. The huge expansion means that the population of the free-movement zone has reached 400 million.

Compiled by Jana Liptaková from press reports

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