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V4 countries criticize statements on postponed Schengen entry

Representatives of some EU countries should not challenge the enlargement of the Schengen area, which the new EU members are to join at the beginning of next year, the prime ministers of the Visegrád Four (V4) group told reporters in Bratislava, Slovakia on Monday.

The prime ministers of V4 group, which is comprised of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Hungary, said their countries would be well prepared for the abolition of border controls, according to the report reaching here from Bratislava. "We consider all our countries well prepared to be part of the Schengen area on Jan. 1, 2008," Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said after a meeting among V4 countries and Portugal. We cannot accept any statement from other countries against this plan, Fico added.

Recently, Austrian Interior Minister Guenter Platter repeatedly said the Schengen enlargement may be postponed. He promoted the idea of a gradual enlargement, during which border controls would be replaced by controls of border areas and transit routes. Platter said Vienna would reintroduce border controls during the European football championships next June to avoid an influx of football rowdies. In reaction to this, Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány said there were no two kinds of border controls and no two Schengens. Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, who was a guest of the V4 meeting as his country will take over the EU presidency from Germany in July, did not challenge the planned date of Schengen enlargement.

The V4 countries, along with other new EU members, was originally scheduled to enter the Schengen system this March, but the timetable was delayed because of technical issues. The Schengen Treaty on the free movement of persons was first signed by France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg in 1985 and took effect 10 years later. Britain and Ireland remain outside the scheme however. (