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Schengen border-free zone enlarged

21 Dec 2007

The Schengen zone of Europe, an area that enables free travel between countries, has been enlarged to include nine new nations.

As of 21 December, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Hungary will join the existing group of countries that are signed up to the Schengen agreement.

Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia complete the list of nations that are now part of the border-free zone.

While the UK and Ireland are not part of the zone, they have signed up to agreements on security. Non-EU nationals will be allowed to travel freely across the participating countries with a Schengen visa.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said: 'As from today people can travel hassle-free between 24 countries of the Schengen area without internal land and sea border controls - from Portugal to Poland and from Greece to Finland.'

He added: 'Together we have overcome border controls as man-made obstacles to peace, freedom and unity in Europe, while creating the conditions for increased security.'

The lifting of internal controls will initially apply only to land and sea borders, with airports set to join the programme in March 2008.

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