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Slovak, Austrian PMs symbolically cut border gates
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The Slovak and Austrian prime ministers, Robert Fico and Alfred Gusenbauer, symbolically cut the gates at the joint border crossing Petrzalka-Berg in connection with Slovakia's Schengen entry at midnight when border checks will be lifted, the Czech news agency CTK reported on Thursday.


"We are becoming the genuine EU citizens, which is very fundamental for us as a small country," Fico told reporters after the ceremony.


"Schengen is a large area of peace, security and stability," Gusenbauer said.


"Today there is only the will to meet and no obstacles," Slovak President Gasparovic said.


Gusenbauer told the Austrian news agency APA previously that the Schengen enlargement would improve safety in Austria.


Gusenbauer also dismissed fears of a rising crime rate as a consequence of the Schengen enlargement.


He recalled that Austria was one of the countries that had profited from EU enlargement to the East most of all.


The Schengen area extension had been prepared carefully both in Austria and in the neighboring countries, he added.


Fico hoped that with the lifting of border checks, other obstacles between Slovakia and Austria at the labor market would also gradually disappear.


The checks on the internal borders between the new and old EU countries will be lifted with the extension of the Schengen system at midnight on Dec. 20-21.


All nine new EU members, including the Czech Republic, are ready to introduce the Schengen system at their land borders by Dec. 21 and international airports by the end of next March.


(Xinhua News Agency December 21, 2007)

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