Daily Archives: December 21, 2007

Czech party seeks to restore ancient monarchy


The ancient coats of arms of Moravia, Bohemia and Silesia.

Prague Post | Dec 19, 2007

Koruna C’eská would rebuild the ancient Czech Kingdom

By Markéta Hulpachová

Former Prime Minister Miloš Zeman called them “one of the parties that could fit in an elevator.” Social Democrat Party Chairman Jirí Paroubek once referred to them as “not even small fish, but plankton.”

The members of Koruna Ceská, a national party that wants to transform the government into a constitutional monarchy, are used to condescendence.

But, with between 400 and 500 members and government representation in four municipalities, Koruna Ceská is not just some farcical movement.

“We’re not satirists, and we’re not some virtual party,” says party Chairman Václav Srb. “We’re simply the political embodiment of a movement to reunify the historic territories of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia under the Czech crown.”

Today, the crown jewels of the old Czech kingdom are locked away by seven keys, asleep in a secured chamber within the St. Vitus Cathedral. But if Srb and his fellow party members have their way, the storied St. Václav crown — the very same headpiece conceived by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV in the 14th century — would once again adorn the head of a Czech monarch.

Koruna Ceská was founded in 1990 as the reincarnation of Ceské deti, a monarchist movement that sprang up in the revolutionary atmosphere of 1988. That year, the dissident members of Ceské deti published a manifesto advocating the renewal of the Czech kingdom, which was reprinted by communist newspaper Rudé právo in an effort to discredit the group. “By showing the public that the dissidents had become monarchists, the comrades wanted to prove that [the dissidents] had gone completely insane,” Srb says. “However, it had the opposite effect.”

By publishing key passages of the manifesto, Rudé právo brought the movement to the attention of dozens of like-minded individuals who had previously thought they were alone in their views. In 1991, over 400 people filled the Realistické (now Švandovo) theatre in Smíchov for Koruna Ceská’s first official assembly. “Until then, each of us thought that we were isolated in our persuasion,” Srb says. “Every monarchist was therefore pleasantly surprised to learn that there were more of us who had found the same solution.”

Srb, a historian, says he came to the conclusion while studying central European wars and political conflicts of the 20th century. “Today, not just the monarchists, but any historian will admit that the fragmentation of the central Danube territory was nonsensical,” Srb says. “By breaking up this territory, which for centuries served as a buffer for outside invasion, it was only a matter of time before these little countries fell prey to Germany or Russia.”

In the case of the Czech lands, the Treaty of Versailles only ensured its security for the next 20 years, when Hitler “stopped liking it,” Srb says.

While he admits that the Austro-Hungarian Empire could not have survived without major reforms that would have increased the autonomy of individual regions, “those reforms were already on the program — their implementation was only interrupted with the onset of World War I,” Srb says.

Return of the king

Instead of its current republican form, which he calls “unsettled” and “artificial,” Srb and his fellow monarchists would strengthen the political integrity of the state by restoring the traditions of the Czech kingdom. To do this, it would be essential to replace the current presidential institution with a royal one. Aside from Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the venerated founding father of the Czechoslovak republic, “an overwhelming majority of our presidents have been either outwardly criminal or pitiful,” Srb says, whereas locals continue to refer to Charles IV as the “most revered Czech persona.”

Unlike the president, who is elected to his post, the king would be groomed for his reign since childhood, which would raise respect for his position and elevate him above politics, Srb says.

Apart from gaining national support for their reforms, the monarchists face the obvious challenge of finding a luminary who would be able and willing to take the crown.

According to Srb, the most obvious choice would be former European Parliament representative Otto von Habsburg. As the eldest son of the last Austro-Hungarian emperor Charles, the 95-year-old crown prince of Austria is the heir to the Czech throne.

But, because the Habsburg dynasty was for decades demonized by local republicans, “it’s understandable that this dynasty isn’t the right one at the moment,” Srb says.

An alternate solution is to turn to foreign ruling dynasties. “I say, if not the Habsburgs, then anyone —let’s not be Eurocentric,” says Srb, whose own provocative suggestion is Norodom Sihamini, the current king of Cambodia. “His father stowed him away here during Cambodia’s period of upheaval … he is the only currently ruling monarch in the world who is fluent in Czech.”

Regardless of the feasibility of its agenda, Koruna Ceská’s presence on the political scene points to a deep disillusionment with the nation’s current identity. “Through our ideals, we want to rehabilitate a non-pathetic, cultured patriotism and the values that coincide with it,” the party’s manifesto says.

“Although our republic is a woeful 90 years old, it’s a negligible episode in our nation’s thousand years of statehood,” Srb adds. “The old traditions still dwell in each of us, but, in most cases, they’re asleep.”

. . .


Austrian monarchists call for Central European monarchy

Yoga Instructor Tasered In Front Of Customers At Best Buy

35-Year-Old Elizabeth Beeland was upset about being falsely accused. Police officer used the taser to “calm her down”.

WFTV | Dec 20, 2007

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — In front of a crowd of customers, a Volusia County woman was shocked by a taser while she was trying to shop. The 35-year-old yoga instructor got so loud and irate inside a busy Daytona Beach store, a police officer tasered her.

The surveillance video from inside the Daytona Beach Best Buy has the American Civil Liberties Union up in arms. The police officer said she used the taser to calm the irate and upset woman down.

Daytona Beach’s police chief is defending his officer’s actions. Chief Michael Chitwood said his officer acted appropriately when she tased an allegedly unruly customer at the Best Buy. The entire incident was caught on store surveillance.

In the video, 35-year-old Elizabeth Beeland is visible as she allegedly causes a commotion at the entrance to the store after being confronted about the use of a suspect credit card that was actually her’s. The video shows her waving her arms and appearing upset.

Officer Uses Taser To Tame Best Buy Shopper

As Beeland turns away, Officer Claudia Wright confronts her and then deploys her taser, striking Beeland in the abdomen.

“The woman is repeatedly told to cease and desist her conduct and activities. As the officer is trying to approach her, you can see her throw her hands up and her arms flailing. The taser is designed for incidents like that,” Chitwood said.

Neither Beeland nor her attorney spoke to Channel 9 about the incident, but the officer said Beeland was “verbally profane, abusive, loud and irate.” Beeland was booked into the Volusia County jail.

It was the first time a Daytona Beach officer has used a taser without actual physical confrontation or resistance.

“If the officer goes hands on and takes her down and she breaks her nose or breaks her jaw or knocks her teeth out of her mouth, well then it’s, ‘How come you didn’t use the taser?'” Chitwood said.

Beeland still faces the charges related to the incident, including disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

. . .


Police Officer’s Use Of Taser On Woman Inside Store Questioned
Attorney Says Use Of Force Unnecessary

Family To Sue Police Over K-9 Attack On Sleeping Boy

14-year old Miguel Perez bitten by police K-9

TurnTo23.com | Dec 20, 2007

Boy Bitten In Face During Police Search For Robbers

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The family of a Bakersfield boy who was bitten by a Bakersfield police K-9 plans to sue the department.

The boy’s mother said 14-year old Miguel Perez was asleep when the dog attacked him as officers searched his family’s home for robbery suspects.

Police said Perez was not involved in the robbery.

According to police, they asked the mother if anyone else was inside the home and she indicated there was no one.

Officers said they also announced that the dog was coming into the home several times before the K-9 entered and the teen was bitten.

New movie ‘Look’ eyes voyeuristic surveillance society

Scenes in Look are shot to appear as if they were ripped from a store surveillance camera.

Wired | Dec 22, 2007

Sneaky Sex, Spooky Scenes: Look Flick Eyes Voyeuristic Surveillance

By Hugh Hart

Adam Rifkin is best known in Hollywood circles for writing family-friendly comedies like Mousehunt and this year’s Underdog. But when his new movie Look opens Friday in New York and Los Angeles, the writer-director gets a chance to channel his inner Peeping Tom.

Prefaced by a factoid asserting that 30 million surveillance cameras in the United States capture images of the average American 200 times a day, Look dramatizes a week in the life of department-store sex addicts, a high school seductress, a pedophile, a “straight” family man who’s having an affair with a gay lawyer, convenience-store slackers and thieves who’ve stashed a body in the trunk of their car. The gimmick: Everything is filmed from the perspective of security cameras.

Wired News caught up with Rifkin in Los Angeles to learn more about his crafty experiment in surveillance cinema.

Wired News: What inspired you to make a movie about the culture of surveillance?

Adam Rifkin: I got a traffic ticket in the mail from the police department. I didn’t know it even happened, but they sent me this picture of myself going through a red light, and you could see my face clear as day, singing to the radio, making a horrible expression. The idea that a photograph could be taken of me without my knowledge and then sent to my home address freaked me out a little bit. I started to think, “What other cameras are out there, taking shots of me that I’m not aware of?” For me, that’s when the whole thing started


Video: Although Look appears to be shot entirely on security cams, capturing the behavior of clueless citizens, Adam Rifkin’s new movie features professional actors performing fully scripted scenes.

WN: How did you research Look?

Rifkin: I went to a bunch of security offices in malls and department stores and banks and interviewed the people who watch the surveillance monitors. I just assumed they’d be trained, professional, responsible individuals, right? Not always the case. In some instances, the guys behind the cameras are high school kids in baggy pants who use cameras with joysticks to zoom in on girls’ boobs. They weren’t looking for shoplifters. If a hot girl walked into the mall, they tracked her from camera to camera to camera, all day long. Let’s say the camera caught under her skirt as the wind blew, they’d take that footage and post it on YouTube. They showed me their highlight reel!

WN: It must have been tricky getting permission to film all this weird behavior in shopping malls, high schools, convenience stores, parking lots and hotel lobbies.

Rifkin: We didn’t break any laws, but we weren’t entirely forthcoming. In some instances we said we were making a reality show. We told other people we were making a documentary about surveillance cameras or shooting a segment on surveillance cameras for the news. We learned pretty quick if we told people we were making a movie and planned to do all these things at their location they’d say, “No way are we going to allow this.” So we had to get creative.

WN: With the different time codes and grainy video quality that varies from scene to scene, the footage in your movie really looks like it was captured by actual security cameras. Did you in fact use the cameras installed at each location?

Rifkin: No, but every location you see in the movie did have real surveillance cameras. We then placed our cameras exactly where the actual security cams were and shot the scenes in HD using Sony F-900s and F-950s — the same cameras they used on movies like Sin City. When we finished shooting, the movie looked beautiful. Then we spent an enormous amount of time and enormous amount of money making it look like shit.

WN: You were trying to make it look artfully crappy.

Rifkin: Exactly.

Every move you make is being watched and privacy is fast becoming obsolete


You will never be left alone

Sydney Morning Herald | Dec 21, 2007

Almost every move you make is being watched – and privacy is fast becoming obsolete, writes Gerard Wright.

If Hollywood and its movies are America thinking aloud, then a very interesting thought bubble has just appeared over the map of the United States.

The bubble appears, naturally, in the form of a film, Look, which opened in US cinemas this month. It weaves a range of stories with entwining themes of sex, blackmail, crime and alienation, with a twist: every scene of the film is shot from the perspective of a surveillance camera, from the bubble lens above an ATM, to the elevated perspective of the security cameras that are ubiquitous and sometimes invisible, across the US.

As entertainment, the jury will return a verdict by the end of the year. As a statement of the American and world zeitgeist, Look is impeccable in its timing.

The US, like Australia and Britain, has taken fear as a guiding principle, and used it to introduce or justify wide-ranging security and surveillance programs as a means of preventing terrorist attacks such as those in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, in Bali in October 2002, and London in July 2005.

In the US the focus has been on preventing another attack, and protecting the “homeland”. It was the justification for the invasion of Iraq, and for the process known as “data-mining” where tens of millions of phone call records are scoured, and billions of calls and emails are monitored.

On a localised level, there is what Yvonne Cager, a video surveillance marketing manager at Texas Instruments, called the “drive to have more eyes everywhere”. An IBM report last year estimated there were 26 million surveillance cameras in the US, while the iSuppli research company forecasts that international sales of surveillance systems will more than double to 66 million units by 2011.

One of these cameras caught Look’s director, Adam Rifkin, singing along to a song in his car as he passed through an intersection, triggering a red light camera. The image Rifkin saw with the fine that arrived in the mail a week or so later was astonishingly sharp and unflattering.

“I felt violated,” he says, but also inspired. Rifkin began looking for surveillance cameras, and the laws that govern their use. The cameras were everywhere and saw everyone. By Rifkin’s assessment, the average American could expect to be filmed 200 times a day. The laws governing that coverage were surprisingly lax.

“In 37 states it’s legal for hidden cameras to be in dressing rooms and bathrooms,” Rifkin says. “I wanted to throw a bucket of cold water onto the public’s obliviousness about these cameras.”

Full Story

Surveillance Society: New High-Tech Cameras Are Watching You

“Society is fundamentally changing and we aren’t having a conversation about it. We are entering the era of wholesale surveillance.”

A dome camera in Lyon, France. Intelligent surveillance networks are commonplace in European cities. Now, many American municipalities are building similar systems.

Popular Mechanics | Jan 2008 issue

By James Vlahos

In the era of computer-controlled surveillance, your every move could be captured by cameras, whether you’re shopping in the grocery store or driving on the freeway. Proponents say it will keep us safe, but at what cost?

The ferry arrived, the gangway went down and 7-year-old Emma Powell rushed toward the Statue of Liberty. She climbed onto the grass around the star-shaped foundation. She put on a green foam crown with seven protruding rays. Turning so that her body was oriented just like Lady Liberty’s, Emma extended her right arm skyward with an imaginary torch. I snapped a picture. Then I took my niece’s hand, and we went off to buy some pretzels.

Other people were taking pictures, too, and not just the other tourists—Liberty Island, name notwithstanding, is one of the most heavily surveilled places in America. Dozens of cameras record hundreds of hours of video daily, a volume that strains the monitoring capability of guards. The National Park Service has enlisted extra help, and as Emma and I strolled around, we weren’t just being watched by people. We were being watched by machines.

Liberty Island’s video cameras all feed into a computer system. The park doesn’t disclose details, but fully equipped, the system is capable of running software that analyzes the imagery and automatically alerts human overseers to any suspicious events. The software can spot when somebody abandons a bag or backpack. It has the ability to discern between ferryboats, which are allowed to approach the island, and private vessels, which are not. And it can count bodies, detecting if somebody is trying to stay on the island after closing, or assessing when people are grouped too tightly together, which might indicate a fight or gang activity. “A camera with artificial intelligence can be there 24/7, doesn’t need a bathroom break, doesn’t need a lunch break and doesn’t go on vacation,” says Ian Ehrenberg, former vice president of Nice Systems, the program’s developer.

Most Americans would probably welcome such technology at what clearly is a marquee terrorist target. An ABC News/Washington Post poll in July 2007 found that 71 percent of Americans favor increased video surveillance. What people may not realize, however, is that advanced monitoring systems such as the one at the Statue of Liberty are proliferating around the country. High-profile national security efforts make the news—wiretapping phone conversations, Internet moni­toring—but state-of-the-art surveillance is increasingly being used in more every-day settings. By local police and businesses. In banks, schools and stores. There are an estimated 30 million surveillance cameras now deployed in the United States shooting 4 billion hours of footage a week. Americans are being watched, all of us, almost everywhere.

We have arrived at a unique moment in the history of surveillance. The price of both megapixels and gigabytes has plummeted, making it possible to collect a previously unimaginable quantity and quality of data. Advances in processing power and software, meanwhile, are beginning to allow computers to surmount the greatest limitation of traditional surveillance—the ability of eyeballs to effectively observe the activity on dozens of video screens simultaneously. Computers can’t do all the work by themselves, but they can expand the capabilities of humans exponentially.

Security expert Bruce Schneier says that it is naive to think that we can stop these technological advances, especially as they become more affordable and are hard-wired into everyday businesses. (I know of a local pizzeria that warns customers with a posted sign: “Stop stealing the spice shakers! We know who you are, we have 24-hour surveillance!”) But it is also reckless to let the advances proceed without a discussion of safeguards against privacy abuses. “Society is fundamentally changing and we aren’t having a conversation about it,” Schneier says. “We are entering the era of wholesale surveillance.”

Full story

Veterans Disarmament Act on its way to the President

“To me, this is the best Christmas present I could ever receive”

– Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), CBS News, December 20, 2007

Gun Owners Get Stabbed In The Back

Gun Owners of America | Dec 20, 2007

Gun Owners of America and its supporters took a knife in the back yesterday, as Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) out-smarted his congressional opposition into agreeing on a so-called “compromise” on HR 2640 — a bill which now goes to the President’s desk.

The bill — known as the Veterans Disarmament Act to its opponents — is being praised by the National Rifle Association and the Brady Campaign.

The Brady Bunch crowed “Victory! U.S. Congress Strengthens Brady Background Check System.” The NRA stated that last minute changes to the McCarthy bill made a “good bill even better [and that] the end product is a win for American gun owners.”

But Gun Owners of America has issued public statements decrying this legislation.

The core of the bill’s problems is section 101(c)(1)(C), which makes you a “prohibited person” on the basis of a “medical finding of disability,” so long as a veteran had an “opportunity” for some sort of “hearing” before some “lawful authority” (other than a court). Presumably, this “lawful authority” could even be the psychiatrist himself.

Note that unlike with an accused murderer, the hearing doesn’t have to occur. The “lawful authority” doesn’t have to be unbiased. The veteran is not necessarily entitled to an attorney — much less an attorney financed by the government.

So what do the proponents have to say about this?

ARGUMENT: The Veterans Disarmament Act creates new avenues for prohibited persons to seek restoration of their gun rights.

ANSWER: What the bill does is to lock in — statutorily — huge numbers of additional law-abiding Americans who will now be denied the right to own a firearm.

And then it “graciously” allows these newly disarmed Americans to spend tens of thousands of dollars for a long-shot chance to regain the gun rights this very bill takes away from them.

More to the point, what minimal gains were granted by the “right hand” are taken away by the “left.” Section 105 provides a process for some Americans diagnosed with so-called mental disabilities to get their rights restored in the state where they live. But then, in subsection (a)(2), the bill stipulates that such relief may occur only if “the person will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety and that the GRANTING OF THE RELIEF WOULD NOT BE CONTRARY TO THE PUBLIC INTEREST.” (Emphasis added.)

Um, doesn’t this language sound similar to those state codes (like California’s) that have “may issue” concealed carry laws — where citizens “technically” have the right to carry, but state law only says that sheriffs MAY ISSUE them a permit to carry? When given such leeway, those sheriffs usually don’t grant the permits!

Prediction: liberal states — the same states that took these people’s rights away — will treat almost every person who has been illegitimately denied as a danger to society and claim that granting relief would be “contrary to the public interest.”

Let’s make one thing clear: the efforts begun during the Clinton Presidency to disarm battle-scarred veterans — promoted by the Brady Anti-Gun Campaign — is illegal and morally reprehensible.

But section 101(c)(1)(C) of HR 2640 would rubber-stamp those illegal actions. Over 140,000 law-abiding veterans would be statutorily barred from possessing firearms.

True, they can hire a lawyer and beg the agency that took their rights away to voluntarily give them back. But the agency doesn’t have to do anything but sit on its hands. And, after 365 days of inaction, guess what happens? The newly disarmed veteran can spend thousands of additional dollars to sue. And, as the plaintiff, the wrongly disarmed veteran has the burden of proof.

Language proposed by GOA would have automatically restored a veteran’s gun rights if the agency sat on its hands for a year. Unfortunately, the GOA amendment was not included.

The Veterans Disarmament Act passed the Senate and the House yesterday — both times WITHOUT A RECORDED VOTE. That is, the bill passed by Unanimous Consent, and was then transmitted to the White House.

Long-time GOA activists will remember that a similar “compromise” deal helped the original Brady Law get passed. In 1993, there were only two or three senators on the floor of that chamber who used a Unanimous Consent agreement (with no recorded vote) to send the Brady bill to President Clinton — at a time when most legislators had already left town for their Thanksgiving Break.

Gun owners can go here to read about how this betrayal occurred 14 years ago.

With your help, Gun Owners of America has done a yeoman’s job of fighting gun control over the years, considering the limited resources that we have. Together, we were able to buck the Brady Campaign/NRA coalition in 1999 (after the Columbine massacre) and were able to defeat the gun control that was proposed in the wake of that shooting.

Yesterday, we were not so lucky. But we are not going to go away. GOA wants to repeal the gun-free zones that disarm law-abiding Americans and repeal the other gun restrictions that are on the books. That is the answer to Virginia Tech. Unfortunately, the House and Senate chose the path of imposing more gun control.

So our appeal to you is this — please help us to grow this coming year. Please help us to get more members and activists. If you add $10 to your membership renewal this year, we can reach new gun owners in the mail and tell them about GOA.

Please urge your friends to join GOA… and, at the very least, make sure they sign up for our free e-mail alerts so that we can mobilize more gun owners than ever before!

Homeland Security finalizing plans for domestic spy satellite program

Congress has not been updated since civil liberties concerns delayed satellite spying

Raw Story | Dec 20, 2007

by Nick Juliano

A plan to dramatically widen US law enforcement agencies’ access to data from powerful spy satellites is moving toward implementation, as Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff expects to finalize a charter for the program this week, according to a new report.

Chertoff insists the scheme to turn spy satellites — that were originally designed for foreign surveillance — on Americans is legal, although a House committee that would approve the program has not been updated on the program for three months.

“We still haven’t seen the legal framework we requested or the standard operation procedures on how the NAO will actually be run,” House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie G. Thompson tells the Wall Street Journal. Thompson was referring to the National Applications Office — a new DHS subset that would coordinate access to spy-satellite data for non-military domestic agencies, including law enforcement.

Civil liberties concerns delayed the program after lawmakers and outside activists wondered how the program would be structured to protect Americans from unconstitutional surveillance from the powerful satellites, which can see through cloud cover, trees and even concrete buildings.

The program’s charter remains unfinalized, but Chertoff said it will use clear language to explain legal restrictions on the data’s use. Warrants will be obtained when required before collecting satellite intelligence, and the program won’t use technology to intercept verbal communications, according to the Journal.

“One lesson I’ve learned is it’s not enough to say we know what we’re doing is going to be OK,” Chertoff told the paper in an interview. “We’ve got to really make it clear to the public that we’re doing this, but we’re not doing that.”

Europe’s border-free zone expands


BBC | Dec 21, 2007

Celebrations have been held after midnight to mark nine new states joining a European border-free zone.

The Schengen agreement, which allows passport-free travel across the area, now embraces 24 nations.

Some 2,000 people celebrated with the EU anthem, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, and fireworks in the town of Frankfurt on Oder at Germany’s border with Poland.

The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia joined the zone.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish PM Donald Tusk will mark the event on Friday morning in the town of Zittau, near the point where Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic meet.

Crime wave fears

They will be joined by Czech PM Mirek Topolanek and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

On Thursday a checkpoint between Austria and Slovakia was dismantled in one of several events marking the enlargement from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer sawed through a barrier at the Berg border crossing.

Other ceremonies took place in Hungary, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Poland and the Baltic states.

These Polish officials held their own celebrations as the EU extended the area for passport-free travel to include eight former communist countries in Eastern Europe, plus Malta.

Initially the lifting of internal controls involves just land and sea borders, but that will be extended to airports at the end of March 2008.

Mr Gusenbauer welcomed the extension of the Schengen zone, rejecting fears that it might create a crime wave in Austria.

The European Commission says that one billion euros (£720m) has been spent on beefing up security on the new EU frontiers, including the establishing of missions along the Polish and Slovak borders.

Mr Fico said: “From midnight tonight you can travel 4,000km (2,485 miles) from Tallinn in Estonia to Lisbon in Portugal without any border controls.”

Although the enlargement allows passport-free travel throughout the area, travellers can be asked to carry documents by any of the countries concerned.

These Estonian border guards were on duty as passport checks were being eliminated at land and sea ports. Airports will follow at the end of March 2008.

Vast database

For non-EU nationals, a Schengen visa allows travel across all the participating countries.

Thirteen existing EU states have already been part of the Schengen accord as well as two non-EU countries, Norway and Iceland.

The UK and Ireland are not involved in the zone – which embraces 400m people – but they have signed up to agreements on security.

A significant element of the Schengen agreement is the Schengen Information Service (SIS) which features an enormous database in the French city of Strasbourg.

The SIS database enables police in any Schengen state to find out whether a suspect has been involved in any kind of crime across the EU.

Security fears as EU drops borders

“We are ordering extra searches, and extra security, alongside our attack on organised crime.”

– Liam Byrne, UK immigration minister

BBC | Dec 20, 2007

The head of the European Union’s border watchdog has warned of a possible rise in illegal immigration because of the enlargement of the Schengen area.

Executive director of Frontex, Ilkka Laitinen, was speaking hours before nine EU countries were due to join the passport-free zone.

The scrapping of border controls will affect an estimated 400 million people.

“We are going to lose a very effective instrument to fight illegal immigration,” he said.

As soon as people had entered the Schengen zone legally or illegally, he said, they would be free to move across the entire area.

Free movement

Mr Laitinen said European countries were well aware of the potential problem but it had been “a deliberate choice of the European Union to focus more on the free movement of persons than on security aspects”.

Similar concerns have been expressed elsewhere.

The head of the German police union, Konrad Freiberg, has said the problem of people trafficking will become acute.

And 75% of Austrians questioned for a television poll said they opposed the lifting of barriers.

The UK, which is not part of the Schengen area, has revealed it has stepped up security and intelligence-led operations.

The immigration minister, Liam Byrne, said the measures had been co-ordinated with France.

“We are ordering extra searches, and extra security, alongside our attack on organised crime,” he said.

“I apologise if queues get a little longer but tougher checks take time.”

Fears dismissed

The Austrian Chancellor, Alfred Gusenbauer, rejected fears of increased crime as a result of the scrapping of controls.

He said the accord was not about criminality, insecurity or fear but it was instead “a bigger zone of peace, security and stability”.

The European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, was also upbeat.

“Together we have overcome border controls as man-made obstacles to peace, freedom and unity in Europe,” he said.