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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
EU plans joint border police
Stowaway found in a lorry
The EU is concerned at the level of illegal immigration
test hello test
By Oana Lungescu
BBC correspondent, Brussels
line
The European Commission has proposed a long-term plan to tighten controls on the external borders of the European Union ahead of its planned expansion to the east and the south.

The president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, said he wanted to ease public fears about uncontrolled immigration.

If the plan is approved by EU governments, it could lead to the creation of a European corps of border guards.

The rise of far-right politicians across western Europe has highlighted public concern about illegal immigration and crime and has given added urgency to proposals that EU leaders commissioned last December.

Streamlining

Unveiling the plan, Mr Prodi said he wanted to reassure citizens that Europe, where most border controls have been abolished, would be protected against any external threat; terrorism, organised crime or uncontrolled immigration.

The plan includes streamlined EU procedures for border checks, as well as shared financing and common standards of training and equipment.

In the medium term, a European corps of border guards could be set up.

But the prospect of Germans patrolling Italy's or Spain's outer borders remains sensitive and would need to be approved by all EU governments.

Terror attacks

They began to co-ordinate their policies on immigration and border controls in 1999, but efforts were speeded up only in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

The EU's external borders with unstable areas such as the Balkans and the former Soviet Union will get considerably longer once 10 more countries from central and southern Europe join, in 2004.

The European justice commissioner, Antonio Vitorino, said it was important to identify vulnerable points and future risks and to prove that expansion would not lead to increased insecurity in existing EU member states.

See also:

08 Apr 02 | Europe
Migration in an expanding EU
06 Feb 01 | Europe
Asylum seekers: Europe's dilemma
23 Nov 01 | Europe
EU issues enlargement warning
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