Press Conferences

6. 12. 2006 18:14

Press briefing of Prime Minister of the CR, Mirek Topolánek concerning enlargement of the Schengen area, on Wednesday 6th December 2006

Martin Schmarcz, head of press unit: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the briefing at the Office of the Government, which concerns principal decision on enlargement of the Schengen area. You received basic information as early as yesterday, but with regard to the fact that this day is very important day not only in the life of the EU, but also as far as the CR is concerned. The Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and the Minister of Interior, Ivan Langer will provide you with further information. Now, I ask the Prime Minister, Mirek Topolánek for his introductory speech.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: Good afternoon, once more. I think I would be good to say as an introduction that after the accession to the EU, the enlargement of the Schengen area from January 1st 2008 is for the Czech Republic the most significant milestone after November 1989. After accession to the Schengen area, Czech citizens will cease to be, also in a formal point of view, citizens of the second category in this sphere. Starting from January 1st 2008, and on airport a bit later, no movement restriction will be applicable to them. I would like to point out that it is watertight success of the European policy of the new government, the basic pillars of which are equal rights of old and new countries. It was not gratis. When this government was entering its office in September, there were real threats that accession to the Schengen area would be postponed to 2010 and in lobbies the date 2012 was speculated on. Thanks to our effort we managed to give evidence that problem of enlargement was not on the side of new countries, but that they were technical complications in the course of implementation of the new Schengen information system SIS. Thus the threat was averted regarding necessity to wait until the SIS II and finally the compromise Portuguese proposal was adopted, so called SIS I. for all. The reason of the success is combination of consistent attitude during negotiations in the framework of the EU, in particular an active approach of the Minister of Interior and Informatics, Ivan Langer, and I would like to thank him in public, and the diplomatic activities in the framework of the Visegrad Four. The Minister of Interior established a special team and earmarked necessary means to bring the enlargement of the Schengen area to a satisfactory conclusion. It was shown that in case we were an active player, not a passive one on the European chessboard, we were able to put through interests of Czech citizens, to win allies and to become co-creators of the game. The government intends to act as actively like this also in further areas.

Martin Schmarcz, head of press unit: And now I ask the Minister of Interior and Informatics for his introductory speech.

Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: When this government entered its office it was a real danger that the second iron curtain would fall. It was in the end of August, when the CR and other countries were informed that the accession to the Schengen area was postponed indefinitely and that also in the future there would exist division of member countries to countries of the first and the second category and that also citizens of these countries will be divided to citizens of the first and the second category. I want to thank the Prime Minister, because he determined solution of the problem. And accession to the Schengen area set as one of principal priorities of foreign policy of the government. Thanks to clear assignment, thanks to quick response of the Ministry of Interior, thanks to establishment of a special team and concentration of people, money, change of organization, thanks to good cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our Embassy in Brussels, thanks to effective coordination of our foreign policy, this historic success has been achieved. Yesterday's decision means that on the New Year's Eve of the next year we will be able to cross land borders of the CR without any passport control and in March at the latest controls at airports in the framework of so called air control of external borders of the EU will be removed. As the Prime Minister has said, it is not gratis. Estimate of total costs related to our accession is about 200 million crowns. It is not little money and it could seem at first sight that it is a lot, but result of our hard work means not only a concrete benefit for citizens and that good feelings that we are equal citizens of the EU, but it also means cost economies and saving of labour; according to our calculations these costs at the amount of 200 million crowns are about half of costs in comparison with further postponement of the Schengen area and in comparison with all matters that we would have to realized with regard to the postponement. For the Czech Republic and for citizens it is also very important decision from the security point of view, as the Police of the CR will be able to transfer starting from January 1st 2008 about 600 policemen from Border and Foreign Police to the sphere of internal security. It means that 600 policemen will reinforce existing units and I am convinced that it is a measure, which will significantly contribute to the improvement of security situation in the CR. I say again, it is a historic step; it is a step by which we have averted, from my view, fall of the second iron curtain dividing Europe into two parts. It is a step, for the implementation of which, we had to work hard and I am very pleased that we were successful thanks to joint effort and thanks to direct pressure from the side of the Prime Minister.

Martin Schmarcz, head of press unit: Ladies and gentlemen, your questions, please. Bára Dytková, Rádio Impuls.

Barbara Dytková, Rádio Impuls: Good afternoon. I would like to ask what those 200 million crowns will be spent for. And further question, what are you going to do with all those buildings at border crossings?

Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: Some of those buildings will rest and will be used in the future, some of them, according to my deep conviction, must be destroyed and some of them I would leave as a reminder of the fact that Europe was divided in the past into two parts even after the accession of the CR. I would be very pleased to have a joint chance to dismount crossbars at border crossings similarly to cutting of barber wires that separated West and Eastern Europe. As to these 200 million crowns, they concern investment into technologies we must share. An advantage of the entire project is that it has been built on the national basis and that thanks to the Portuguese initiative, I thing the Portuguese minister of interior would deserve decoration of the Czech Republic for his attitude, thanks to the fact that we take over their national programme, we have to adapt it to be applicable in our conditions, we must ensure technologies for implementation of data collection, for assessment of these data and for connection with the central register, which is in France and for security measures; and it costs money. Financial means will be also spent for training of people who will work with this system in the framework of new rules. And the third area concerns investments in the regime measures at airports, because after accession to the Schengen area, if our neighbour countries are successful too, the Czech Republic will have only air external borders and will have to meet very strict security criteria at all airports, which have a status of international airport and which will become external borders of the Schengen area. But I say again, those 200 million crowns, according to our calculations, are about half of the amount, which we would have to invest in the course of preparation of SIS II, anyway. The preparation could last, as it was already mentioned, three or four years and the money would be spent uselessly.

Martin Schmarcz, head of press unit: Ladies and gentlemen, are there any other questions?

Journalist, Radio ARD: Good afternoon. What are feelings of the Czech Republic regarding the accession to the Schengen and what measures will be necessary to take by the end of the year, and do you expect any problems?

Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: I do not know anything about feelings of the CR, but my feelings are very good, as I regard this as a great success, which was based on hard work. The CR, as well as all new member countries, are evaluated continuously regarding meeting conditions established for accession to the Schengen area. In the course of the first half of the next year final evaluations will be performed and they will concern only those international airports in the CR. We do not register any serious reservations from the side of member countries, which would doubt readiness of the CR and I am convinced that we have done good job and that the CR is in this sense one of the best prepared countries of all new member states of the EU.

Martin Schmarcz, head of press unit: There is time for two questions at a maximum, if there are any.

Nikola Bojčev, Frekvence 1: A question for the Prime Minister. Prime Minister what are you bringing to the working lunch with the President?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: I have won a bet. As usually I am going there with full responsibility, with humility and with absolutely clearly prepared position.

Nikola Bojčev, Frekvence 1: And the second question. When will you present the proposal of the programme to your partners, or to the possible government?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: The proposal of the programme is being completed at the moment rather from the graphical point of view. It will be debated of course at today's meeting of the programme team in attendance of all parties involved.

Martin Schmarcz, head of press unit: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention.

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