Barricades built on the Czech-German border

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Ten years after the fall of communism, and with the Czech Republic striving to return to the European family of nations, members of the German Federal Authority For Border Protection are busy building barricades on the Czech-German border. Spokesman Dietmar Kottwitz says the measure is designed to stop people stealing cars in the German borderlands, and driving them through fields and woods back to the Czech Republic. Alena Skodova has this report:

"It's nothing new," Mr. Kottwitz said, "we've been building barricades for about seven years." Germany invests thousands of marks each year into the protection of the so-called 'green border' - the unmanned border that runs through forests and fields.

German border guards have succeeded in making some 15 kilometers of the Czech-Saxony border more complicated for cars to pass - they've built a network of stone barriers, one-metre deep trenches, wooden fences and concrete pillars. Mr. Kottwitz explained that they always chose materials which blend in nicely with the local scenery.

Last year alone, there were some 80 recorded illegal crossings, but Mr. Kottwitz admitted that in reality there must have been many more. Since 1997, however. the number of illegal car crossings over the 'green border' has dropped by approximately one half thanks to the barricades.

The head of the border police in the North Bohemian town of Sluknov says car thieves show the greatest interest in luxury cars, such as Volkswagens, Audis and Mercedes. "If the tracks lead towards the Czech Republic, we know it's a car theft. If it leads towards Germany, it means it's a car left behind by illegal immigrants," says Mr. Svatek. The Czech border police, too, build fences on their border, but not as many. "We haven't got the money," Mr. Svatek explained.