Not waiting for midnight, Slovakia and Austria have already begun festivities on the eve of expansion of the European Union’s Schengen area. Many in Europe see this as erasing the last traces of the old Iron Curtain.
Champagne corks anticipated nine countries’ borders popping open. In an effervescent mood, Chancellor Gusenbauer said that from tonight it will be possible to travel the four thousand kilometers between the capitals of Estonia in the northeast and Portugal in the southwest without pulling out one’s passport.
Austrian and Hungarian officials popped a chain before inaugurating the first of three “Hello Neighbour” benches along their border.
Their creator Peter Kukorelli says they are designed to wear away the border-phobia that set in during the Cold War years in the Pinka Valley region, when east-west movement was frozen.