The European Union’s internal borders-free zone is about to add nine more EU member states from this December 21. The bloc’s interior ministers next week are set to approve extending the Schengen space to the countries that joined the EU in 2004, except for Cyprus, which asked for one year’s delay.
Thirteen EU countries, plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, are currently part of the border-free zone. Britain and Ireland have chosen not to be part of it.
From December, people travelling from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia will be able to travel to the existing Schengen states without having to show their passports. Border controls at the airports of the nine countries will be removed later: in March next year.
Romania and Bulgaria, which became EU members only this year, need to do more work to meet security criteria before they meet the Schengen conditions.