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Cheering Sicilians welcome Malta into the Schengen area

Sicilians received the first passengers to make today's sea crossing from Malta under new Schengen rules with a grand welcome that included a cheering crowd and mayors from all the nearest municalities.

The 6 a.m. catamaran found a waiting crowd and dignitaries at Pozzallo.

The stately reception, which included an address by Italian Under Secretary Bob Craxi, who flew from Rome for the event, was actually called for the ministerial delegation which made the crossing to mark the day.

But Ragusa Mayor Nello Dipasquale said Malta's membership of Schengen was clearly “cause for celebration” for the Sicilians.

Along with another eight EU member states, Malta lifted its sea borders to join the EU’s borderless area, known as Schengen today. Air borders will be lifted in March.

Home Affairs Minister Tonio Borg, who led the delegation, that included Communications Minister Censu Galea and Parliamentary Secretary Carm Mifsud Bonnici said the event was a historic step forward in Malta’s full integration into the EU, which along with accession into the Eurozone this January, marks a “new spring” for Malta.

The new members of the Schengen area with Malta are Estonia, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

They join join Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the two associated countries Norway and Iceland.

The UK and Ireland do not form part of Schengen.

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