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While borders in Europe fall, Serbia erects new walls, expert says

The enlargement of the European border-free zone „cannot be overrated,” an economic expert said for Friday’s edition of the Serbian daily Blic, but despite not being part of the new zone, Serbia plans to strengthen the wall around it.

The extension of the Schengen agreement to nine more countries removed the last vestiges of the Iron Curtain that divided Western Europe from the East, Vladimir Gligorov of the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies said in a commentary. „The significance of the removal of borders between, say, Hungary and Austria, and the survival of the border between Serbia and Hungary and the European Union cannot be overrated,” he said. „In stark contrast (to the Schengen expansion) the border between Serbia and the united Europe remains, and some of the borders in Serbia’s neighbourhood may strengthen and in some places new walls may be erected or the existing strengthened,” Gligorov said. He was referring to Belgrade’s threats of trade sanctions and border blockades in case its breakaway province of Kosovo declares independence. „What surprises in Serbia ... are the serious considerations to erect obstacles to trade and communications. It is difficult to understand why it is politically acceptable in Serbia, particularly after its experience with isolation,” Gligorov said.

The enlarged Schengen area, named after the town in Luxembourg where the free-movement scheme was first signed, now accommodates a total of 24 countries and some 400 million people. After Hungary joined, Serbia became one of the zone’s frontiers. Because of political turmoil in Serbia and, subsequently, rampant crime and corruption, its border with the Schengen remains much firmer, than those of Croatia to the west or Romania to the east. (m&