More freedom to travel in Europe

As of last night, nine new members of Europes Schengen zone expanded the freedom to travel without hassle at the borders hundreds of miles toward the East and to a total population of over 400 million Europeans. This makes it possible to travel freely up to the border of the countries that were formerly the Soviet Union, thus erasing many vestiges of the Cold War. The Schengen Agreement of 1985 abolishes all border restrictions and controls between member states and provides for a common visa for travellers from outside its borders.

After two years of preparation, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia will join the oldest EU states — Britain and the Republic of Ireland excluded — plus Iceland and Norway in the extended zone pushing the area’s outmost borders hundreds of kilometers eastwards.

The expansion is expected to continue with Cyprus and Switzerland planning to sign on soon. London and Dublin prefer to remain outside and keep their own visa regimes, rather than the “one visa for all” policy that applies to the Schengen countries.

Deutsche Welle – 12/20/2007

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