Border controls between EU-15 and new Members to be kept until end 2006

EU citizens need identity cards, but no longer passports, to travel between the ten new Member States and the EU-15. Abolition of border controls will however not take place before end 2006.

Since 1 May, European citizens from the EU-15 and from the
new members are enjoying the freedom to move around the enlarged EU
on presentation of an identity card or a passport. Visas that were
required from residents of the new members for stays over 90 days
are no longer needed. But in some countries people who stay for
extended periods of time will need a residency permit.

However, the EU-15 will keep border checkpoints
in place until they are satisfied that the new members can police
their own eastern borders. Between the new Member States
themselves, border controls will also remain in place, for some
time after accession.

New Member States are hoping that borders can be
eliminated in 2006, as they want to do away as soon as possible
with differentiation between their status and the one of the EU-15.
The decision of the Council to remove border controls will be based
on careful examination, including evaluation visits by national
experts. Each new Member State will be assessed individually.

Pietro Petrucci, spokesman for Justice and Home
Affairs Commissioner Vitorino told EURACTIV that “border controls
between the EU-15 and the ten new EU Members will remain in place
at least until end 2006”. Abolition of controls on persons, as has
been done between the ‘Schengen’ countries, can be achieved only
when all prerequisites, such as the access to the Schengen
Information System, are fulfilled to ensure that it will not
decrease public safety for citizens.

336 million euro are going to be made available
in the European 2005 budget for the new Member States’ control of
external borders to stem a feared inflow of drugs, arms and illegal
immigrants from countries of the former Soviet Union and central
Asia.

EU anti-crime agencies fear the new borderlands
of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia may not
be up to the job. The main concern is the policing of the Union’s
new eastern borders with countries such as Russia, Belarus and
Ukraine. Russian crime rings have found it easy to melt into the
background in the three Baltic countries better than elsewhere
because two of them, Latvia and Estonia, have sizeable Russian
minorities.

In Hungary, on the southern end of the EU
border, the biggest concern is human trafficking, mainly involving
women sold into sexual slavery. Police estimate a few thousand
women are shipped by gangs through Hungary from its neighbours
Romania Ukraine, Croatia and Serbia each year.

Officials in the new Member States admit
corruption, drug smuggling and a growing illegal trade in arms will
be a challenge.

EU leaders have agreed that the seat of the
future European Agency for Management of EU External Borders is to
be situated in one of the new member countries as they will bear
the responsibility for the EU external borders on land. Slovenia,
Estonia, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia are reportedly wishing
to host the seat of the Agency.

 

Ahead of enlargement on 1 May 2004, the EU has given a high
priority to reinforcing the capacity of the new Member States to
control their external borders. It has invested heavily in
equipment, in training the border guards of the new Member States
and in promoting joint operations with the EU-15 and new Member
States, in order to guarantee that all share the same standards of
border control.

 

The Council will decide on the lifting of border checks
between the EU-15 and the newest members, when it considers that
the new Members States are able to carry out efficient checks at
external borders.

 

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