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What was supposed to be a Community of free movement of persons probably won't be for years to come - if then.

So far nine EC countries, called the Shengen Group after a village in Luxembourg, have agreed on implementing a system that combines very tough checks at external borders with no checks at internal borders - a system ``a l'americaine," as one senior EC official puts it.

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Three countries - Denmark, Ireland, and Britain - refuse to forego internal border checks, however, with British officials insisting that the right to check internal borders, such as the new Channel Tunnel set to open next year, will be exercised "indefinitely."

Even for the nine Shengen countries, however, the falling of internal borders will be gradual. National police computers will not be interlinked until sometime midway through next year, so some land checks will continue until then. Airports have been granted until December 1993 to make the necessary infrastructural changes to sort "external" flights, whose passengers will be controlled, from "internal" EC flights, whose passengers will not.

But even though internal land borders of such "core" EC members as France, Germany, and the Benelux countries have already fallen, notes of discord continue to sound occasionally.

Recently French Interior Minister Paul Quiles stated, for example, that the Netherlands' liberal drug laws risked sabotaging the free movement of EC citizens.