James G. Neuger
November 6, 2007
Nov. 6 (Bloomberg) — Nine mostly eastern European countries will join the European Union’s passport-free travel zone in December, in the bloc’s latest step to overcome the continent’s divisions.
Car, train and boat passengers between the eastern countries and most of western Europe will no longer need to show passports as of Dec. 21, the EU said today. Passport checks on air passengers will cease when the summer flight schedule takes effect in March.
Praising “tremendous efforts” by the eastern countries, the EU said “the member states concerned have on the whole shown that they are sufficiently prepared.” EU interior ministers will finalize the decision at a Nov. 8 meeting in Brussels.
The move expands the freedom to travel for 75 million citizens in eight former communist countries — Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia — and the Mediterranean island of Malta, which all joined the EU in 2004.
Eastern governments have spent millions of euros upgrading controls on frontiers with non-EU countries, answering western concerns that illegal immigrants and criminals would slip through porous borders.
Thirteen other EU states plus non-EU members Norway and Iceland take part in the no-passport program. Cyprus, which also joined the EU in 2004, and non-member Switzerland are slated to be added in 2008.
Travelers will still need to show passports when entering and leaving Britain, Ireland, Bulgaria and Romania.
To contact the reporter on this story: James G. Neuger in Brussels at email@example.com
Last Updated: November 6, 2007 05:18 EST