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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 February, 2004, 01:15 GMT
Towns dismantle Cold War fence
Gorizia/Gorica mayors remove the last sections of fence
The fence will now be marked by flower pots
One of Europe's last symbols of Cold War-era division has finally been removed, more than a decade after the fall of the Berlin wall.

A metal fence that has separated the Italian town of Gorizia from its Slovenian neighbour Nova Gorica since 1947 has been dismantled in a gesture to mark the former Yugoslav republic's impending EU membership.

Crowds of people gathered to watch the two towns' mayors dismantle the remaining stretch of fencing.

We would spit at each other and throw tomatoes across it
Nova Gorica resident Julij Strosar

"The road to Europe is now open, but only symbolically," a Slovenian TV reporter commented, adding that the legal border would remain.

Divided

Originally a single town, Gorizia/Gorica was split between Italy and what was then Yugoslavia following World War II.

The barrier, which divided relatives and friends for decades, was an object of fear in the tense atmosphere between East and West in the 1950s.

Nova Gorica resident Cilka Princic recalled the time when people would risk their lives trying to cross the border.

"I still remember that there was a barbed wire fence. Somebody fell into it and the Italians pulled him out, otherwise our side would have killed him."

Relations between the citizens divided by the fence were once less than friendly. "We would spit at each other and throw tomatoes across it," Slovenian Julij Strosar said.

Gorizia resident Constantina Ruzzini was still apprehensive of her new neighbours. "I am a bit scared. We have never got on well," she told reporters.

Flower pots

Many residents warmly welcomed the move. "This is a great event," Nova Gorica resident Borut Vuga told Slovenian TV.

"It basically split the town in two. Over the years, they became two separate towns and it is now imperative that it falls."

Today we are tearing down a real wall, but our hope is that a mental barrier will also be knocked down
Gorizia mayor Vittorio Brancati

"I believe it was high time the fence was removed," a woman from the Italian side of the fence, Luisa Bacaglioni, agreed.

Gorizia mayor Vittorio Brancati was confident old divisions would die off in what is hoped will become an increasingly integrated cross-border area.

"Today we are tearing down a real wall, but our hope is that a mental barrier will also be knocked down," he told Italian TV.

His opposite number, Miro Brulc, said that once workmen have removed the remaining stretches of the fence, a square would be built in its place.

But he added that as long as border controls are still in place, it will continue to be marked - symbolically - by a row of flower pots.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




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