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Tuesday, 14 February 2006 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Local border traffic (debate)

  Jaromír Kohlíček, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (CS) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I agree with the previous speaker that if we adopt this text we will have to do all we can to prevent governments from torpedoing it. In 1957, when the six Member States of the European Community accepted the Treaties of Rome, it seemed that the achievement of the so-called four freedoms, which is to say the free movement of goods, capital, services and persons, was only a distant prospect. After the introduction of the so-called Schengen system, the removal of customs barriers between the Member States of the EU and the implementation of a series of measures to regulate relations between states in the area in question, the realisation of this goal came a lot closer. The issue today is not whether it will be possible in the near future to secure the free movement of persons between the Member States of the EU, but rather to determine a realistic and rapid timetable for the implementation of this freedom.

In the interim, it would be appropriate to come to an arrangement at least over what is referred to as local border traffic. Such an arrangement would in the meantime improve the outlook for bilateral relations between states that are not in the Schengen system but which do belong to the EU or to the European Economic Area. The authors of the measures under discussion are aware that the EU covers only one half of Europe’s geographical area. It is in our own interests to ensure that we are as open as possible towards our neighbours. These measures create the possibility for setting up local border traffic with non-Member States. Let us not forget that, from 1 January 2007, this will entail land borders with Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldavia, Macedonia, Serbia, Albania, Croatia and Turkey, and that such measures will be taken as a positive signal by neighbouring states. They will open the door to mutual cooperation in the border regions, provided of course that we reject the measures to which Mr Lax alluded. The introduction of special kinds of visa and other conditions contained in the measures will make it possible, on the basis of assessments, to make use of this special regime to strengthen cooperation with all of our neighbouring states. This would also be very valuable for the future development of relations especially with larger partners such as Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. In my view, there are a number of proposed amendments aimed at improving the chances of these measures working, with only a minority seeking to amend the rules to make them less workable. I should therefore like to ask you, ladies and gentlemen, to draw a careful distinction between these two categories when voting on the proposed amendments. Do not forget that the Directive represents a model of neighbourly relations and thereby gives a signal of whether or not the EU wants to be an open society or to erect barriers against neighbouring states along its borders.

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