EU to speed up open borders policy


dpa German Press Agency
Published: Saturday December 30, 2006

Brussels/Helsinki- The European Union is pressing ahead with the abolition of border controls between old and new members by the end of next year, ministers from two key EU states said Saturday. Efforts are being made to expand the Schengen agreement on open borders "as soon as possible," Finnish Interior Minister Kari Rajamaki and his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble said.

Germany takes over the rotating presidenty of the soon-to-be 27-member EU on January 1.

"The free movement of EU citizens is a fundamental principle of the European Union," the two ministers said in a joint article published in Finnish newspapers.

Technical arrangements agreed on during the Finnish presidency will enable an end to sea and land border controls by the end of 2007 and airport controls by the end of March 2008, the ministers said.

Before this can be put into practice, however, the necessary computer system has to be in place and the EU's eastern European members need to meet all EU requirements in relation to cross-border travel.

"The development of an integrated border protection system on the EU's outer borders is a common goal of Finland and Germany," Rajamaki and Schaeuble said.

For this to be effective the EU border protection agency needs more funds and more assistance from the bloc's members, they said.

"The European Union must intensify its efforts to combat illegal migration," the ministers said.

The EU summit in mid-December agreed on concrete measures towards this goal, "the implementation of which will be one of the priorities of Germany's presidency," they added.

The two ministers pointed out that "the responsibility for outer borders and immigration rests with individual EU members and their officials as does the implementation of asylum procedures.

The article did not discuss concrete measures to stem illegal immigration to Europe, but said "a common approach" could improve cooperation between EU members and their help their dialogue with states in Africa and the non-EU Mediterranean region.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency