Border Checks Lifted for Latest 9 to Join Schengen

BRUSSELS -- Border checks will be lifted at airports on Sunday for travelers flying between the nine countries that joined Europe's border-free Schengen area last year and the rest of the border-free zone.

Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta and Slovenia joined Europe's Schengen area, where people travel without showing passports, on Dec. 21.

They had to wait for the March 30 change of flight schedules in airports for the move to be extended to air travel. The move means travelers flying between one of the nine countries and any other Schengen state will not need to show passports to border guards on departure and arrival.

They will arrive and depart from a separate air terminal.

Identity checks and standard security controls, however, including restrictions on carrying liquids in hand luggage, will be maintained.

"The dismantling of air border controls is the final step toward completion of a unique and historic achievement: 24 countries of [Europe] have no internal borders," EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot said in a statement.

Europe's border-free Schengen area covers 22 EU countries plus Norway and Iceland, or some 3.6 million square kilometers, home to more than 400 million people.

Britain and Ireland have chosen not to join. Cyprus has asked for one year's delay. Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the EU last year, need more work to meet security criteria, officials say.