Old Cold War frontiers, once guarded by guns and barbed wire, were consigned to history today, as nine mostly former Soviet-bloc states joined Europe’s border-free zone.
At midnight, the former Communist countries plus Malta joined the 15 existing Schengen states to create passport-free travel across an area one third the size of the USA.
Redundant border posts were ceremonially cut up, and people were able to walk freely across frontiers which one divided the Soviet bloc from the West.
The Schengen zone is named after the village in Luxembourg where passport-free travel was first agreed in 1985. With its expansion to 24 states, the area covers around 400 million people.
It’s expected to boost business and tourism, though critics predict an equal rise in cross-border crime and illegal immigration.
Britain and Ireland remain outside the agreement, and continue to check passports. Cyprus has asked for a year’s delay, while EU new boys Romania and Bulgaria have yet to meet security levels.