As Index writes, at the beginning of 2023, Croatia became a new member of the Schengen zone, the largest area of free movement of goods and people in the world, which includes all the members of the European Union, except for Bulgaria and Romania, Cyprus, the Republic of Ireland and four other non-EU countries: Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.
On this occasion, on New Year’s Eve, special ceremonies were held at numerous border crossings with Slovenia and Hungary, including one of the largest crossings on the Croatian-Slovenian border, Bregana-Obrežje.
Borders have stood there for too long
Minister Božinović hosted Slovenian Minister Sanja Ajanović Hovnik, while Acting Chief Director of Slovenian Police Boštjan Lindav joined Chief Police Director Nikola Milina.
“There are no more borders that stood between our neighbors and us for too long, the natural environment to which we belong both as a people and as a country,” Božinović said.
He assessed that last night’s act is more than the abolition of border controls: It is the final affirmation of our European identity, for which generations of Croats fought and ultimately won. He thanked the Slovenian minister and delegation for sharing moments of joy and pride. “Happy new year in Schengen to all of you!”
The Slovenian minister considered it a historical event. “Just as we symbolically set borders about 30 years ago, we are removing them now. However, this does not mean that security will decrease since we have thoroughly prepared for this moment in both countries,” said Ajanović Hovnik.
After a short meeting of the ministers, at midnight, a ramp was simultaneously lifted on both sides of the border, which enabled free passage between the neighbouring countries. The lifting of the ramp on the Slovenian side was followed via a video wall.
Five minutes before midnight, the police officers at Bregana carried out the last border control, along with an appropriate gift – a teddy bear dressed in the uniform of a Croatian policeman.
In addition to the ramp, the sign with the inscription “Bergana Border Police Station” was removed, but just before that, the last report of the station chief was recorded, in which he informed the police officers to stop implementing border controls and move on to the tasks of compensatory measures.
The two countries’ delegations then headed to the Slovenian side, to the area of the former Obrežje border crossing, where the chiefs of police stations and police officers thanked each other for their cooperation so far, with the symbolic removal of plaques from the police building in Obrežje. In the first 15 minutes after midnight, a dozen cars entered Slovenia without control from Croatia, greeting the assembled police officers with the sound of their horns.
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