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Laima Andrikiene on the enlargement of the Schengen zone

Dr. Laima Andrikiene, MEP (EPP-ED, Lithuania)

Lithuania is joining the Schengen zone this coming Friday. For me and my compatriots it is a very important step, which means that Lithuania together with another eight EU members states who joined the EU in 2004 are successfully integrating into the EU.

At the same time the expansion of the Schengen area further to the Central and Eastern Europe means that EU integration becomes deeper, and for me this is a clear sign of stronger, more powerful European Union.

Even for me who travels a lot it is difficult to imagine that from Friday nobody will stop me at the Lithuanian - Polish or Lithuanian - Latvian border claiming to check my passport or identity card, and border control will remain at all airports until the end of March 2008.

It is important to note that Lithuania is a transit country, and our companies - road carriers - deliver cargoes coming from, for example, Asia to France, Germany, UK, and many other destinations. Our businessmen salute Lithuania“s membership in the Schengen zone (especially those who deal with EU countries), because their interest is to deliver cargoes as soon as possible. Those who do business with non-EU countries and Russia (including Kaliningrad region) or Belarus in particular will have additional problems: visas for non-EU citizens will become more expensive, and this will create problems for workers from Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia coming to work in Lithuania.

Nevertheless, in general in Lithuania - politicians, students, university professors, workers, artists, young and old, i.e. all of us agree: it is a big step forward, because we do not want to feel ourselves as second class Europeans.