Vatican seeks to join Schengen borderless zone
13.01.06 @ 18:56
A top official from the Vatican announced on Friday (13 January) that it wants to join the European border-free Schengen zone, in a bid to prevent international terrorism crossing its borders.
The Vatican's signing up to the Schengen agreement, which replaces internal border checkpoints between member states by reinforced external borders, is meant to boost cooperation with EU authorities.
Nicola Picardi, the Vatican's "procurer of justice", said that the Schengen agreement was about more than allowing people to travel without passports, according to media reports.
"This agreement allows for us to intensify exchange of information, joint operations, repressive and preventive measures, to ensure the security of all people," Picardi said during a ceremony marking the opening of the Vatican's judicial year.
"International terrorism obliges new forms of communication, with the aim of uniting free movement of persons with perfect measures of fomenting security," the Vatican's top official said.
At the moment, the Schengen border free area includes 15 states: 13 EU members (all old member states except for the UK and Ireland) plus Iceland and Norway.
The ten countries which joined the EU in 2004 are planning to enter the area in 2007.
Zero crime rate at pope's funeral
The procurer explained that the amount of registered legal procedures taken in the Vatican last year amounted to 486 civil- and 472 penal-infractions, with the state having less than 1000 permanent residents, mostly clerics, nuns and diplomats.
Mr Picardi said that the 18 million tourists and believers who visit the mini-state, completely surrounded by the Italian capital of Rome, were behind the disproportionate crime statistics.
He said however that during the funeral of the late Pope John Paul II in last spring, when 6 million grieving Catholics from the whole world camped in the city for a few intense and crowded days; not a single crime had been reported.
Not a single purse or wallet robbery had occurred, he noted.