EU regrets delay in opening borders to newcomers

The European Commission expressed regret on Wednesday for a postponement in the opening of its internal borders to new member states, saying it will seek to minimise the delay. The EU had originally planned to allow the ten states which joined the bloc two years ago into its border-free "Schengen" area in October 2007. But technical and legal problems in building a new central police database look set to delay the expansion of the borderless area for at least a year, which prompted harsh criticism from the newcomers led by the Czech Republic. A spokesman said the European Commission is aware of the frustration of the citizens of new member states. He responded to a statement from the Czech Foreign Ministry, which said the delay meant Czech citizens could not take full advantage of free movement, one of the EU's fundamental freedoms.