ZITTAU, Germany, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- Passport-free Schengen zone saw its biggest ever enlargement on Friday as nine European Union (EU) member states implemented the Schengen Agreement.
The nine states are Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. They all joined the EU on May 1, 2004.
The following is the brief introduction of the Schengen Agreement and its development.
The Schengen Agreement is an agreement which allows for the abolition of systematic border controls between the participating countries.
Border posts and checks have been removed within the Schengen area and a common "Schengen visa" allows tourist or visitor access to the area.
The agreement also includes provisions on common policy on the temporary entry of persons (including the Schengen Visa), the harmonization of external border controls, and cross-border police co-operation.
The agreement was originally signed on June 14, 1985 by five European states including Belgium, France, then West Germany, Luxembourg and The Netherlands.
However, it was not until March 26, 1995 that the agreement was put into practice.
By far, all 27 EU states except Britain and Ireland, along with three non-EU members (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland), have signed the agreement.
Among them, 24 countries have so far put the pact into implementation. The following are the time for implementation of the agreement:
-- March 26, 1995: Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain;
-- Oct. 26,1997: Italy;
-- Dec. 1, 1997: Austria;
-- March 26, 2000: Greece;
-- March 25, 2001: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden;
-- Dec. 21, 2007: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia (for overland borders and seaports only);
-- March 29, 2008: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia (for airports).