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Europe broadly welcomes enlarged Schengen pact

 Europe broadly welcomes enlarged Schengen pact
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EU leaders were keen to join the party as Europe celebrated another expansion.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was born in East Germany, took centre-stage on the Polish-German border.

Spotting youngsters in the crowd she said: “It is my great pleasure that young people growing up today will experience European unity, something their parents and grandparents could only dream about. These borders have brought much sorrow.”

At Frankfurt-an-der-Oder, there are no guards on the bridge anymore. Its residents, and those of Slubice on the Polish side of the river, are free to cross at liberty.

One thrilled student said: “This is just great because I am studying in Frankfurt but living in a students’ residence in Poland. This makes it a lot easier. Before I could miss my train because of queues at the border. That won’t happen now.”

Slubice’s mayor is hoping for an accompanying economic boom: “Now the barriers are gone it is extremely important to push the development of these cities.”

But as Lithuania opened its border to Europe it’s had to put barriers up to neighbouring Belarus. From today its visas cost 60 euros as opposed to five.

“I will have to cut back on visits to my friends in Lithuania,” said one man from Belarus. “But we also play sport together so I can’t stop coming.”

The new fee is half the average monthly salary in Belarus, because even if the visa is just for a day’s shopping trip, free movement in Schenggen Europe means it has to be valid for the whole of the continent.