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Friday, 21 December 2007

The last stage of European integration has been completed

 On 21 December 2007, President of the Republic of Poland Mr Lech Kaczyński together with President of the Republic of Lithuania Mr Valdas Adamkus attended a ceremony on the Polish-Lithuanian border which marked Poland’s and Lithuania’s entry to the Schengen area.
At the ceremony, the President of RP noted among others:

”This is yet another achievement in the process of integration of our continent. This achievement has its human dimension and is very important from the point of view of an average Pole, Lithuanian, or indeed, of citizens of many other countries. I belong to a generation that only too well remembers what it took to travel abroad, especially to the West, the generation that also remembers that there was no checkpoint on the border between Poland and Lithuania. And this was done on purpose. Today, there are many checkpoints but as of now they are only of a technical nature. Europe continues as a very strong union of states and it is very beneficial. That being said, these states have achieved the most advanced stage of integration that is possible in the world of today and in Europe of today. And this is our joint great success. The success that might seem unimaginable and yet it is attainable and real. Schengen has become an accomplished fact. Indeed, we have reason to congratulate each other but for me personally, it is also immensely gratifying that I may congratulate President Adamkus here on having this ceremony organised on the Polish-Lithuanian border. Let me reiterate: it is crucially important that this is happening right here and I think this venue speaks volumes. My congratulations, Mr President. And congratulations are also due to all Lithuanian citizens. One would venture to suggest that the world has become even more open. It has become so open that one can travel an almost five thousand kilometres’ long stretch in Europe without any control whatsoever”.

Subsequently, the Presidents met with the officers of the Polish and Lithuanian Border Guards, and with the Polish and Lithuanian communities.

In his evening address in Channel 1 of the Polish TV, the President of RP said the following:
“21 December 2007 is a very special date. We have entered the Schengen area. Border controls along the sizeable part of Polish borders have been abolished. The sea border with Sweden, land borders with the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Germany and Slovakia are open. Poland’s integration with the majority of EU Members States has been completed. As of 21 December 2007, every Pole will be free to travel across Europe, to reach its most remote parts without document check.

A great dream of the Polish people has come true. A dream that some twenty years ago seemed utterly unrealistic. Entry to the Schengen area is a great day indeed. Merely two years ago, experts and the press were spreading alarm suggesting that Poland dragged behind the group of states preparing for the entry to the area. The gigantic work done by the previous government resulted in the completion of all not easy criteria which are binding on countries belonging to the Schengen area.

I would like to acknowledge wholeheartedly the previous government for all the work they have done in this respect. My warm thanks are due to civil servants, diplomats, officers of the Border Guard and other uniformed services. Without your work, it would not be possible to claim today that a citizen of the Republic of Poland is no longer a second class citizen of the European Union. As of today, a Pole can enjoy the very same freedom of movement as a Frenchman, Dutchman or German.

Recent days have brought one more significant proof of Poland’s strong position in Europe. I am referring to the signing of the Reform Treaty of the European Union. Poland will have a serious impact on decisions taken in Europe. This affords us an even greater opportunity to make optimum use of our EU membership. The membership which rightly is a source of pride to the major part of the Polish people. When I was negotiating the Treaty, it was not merely a political perspective that I bore in mind. I realised that a strong Polish state within an effectively working Europe is the best safeguard of interests of the Polish men and women. The European Union is important. The EU is a great opportunity but what is most import ant is the interest of Poland and the Polish people. In Lisbon we have proved that we can combine the interest of Poland with the interest of the whole continent, that we can take care of our Polish affairs while also taking care of the future of Europe. Poland has scored success. Poland has shown that it can be one of the leading countries which transform Europe, and thus the whole world, into a better place to live.

This joyous occasion when our membership of the EU has been fully accomplished should also prompt a reflection on our friends in the East and in the South. In the name of solidarity but also driven by its own most profound interest, Poland must make sure that our Eastern and South-Eastern border should not emerge as a cordon to divide Europeans.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Compatriots, taking the opportunity afforded by this good day, I also wish to convey to you my very best wishes for your merry healthy and peaceful Christmas.”
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