BRUSSELS -- The borderless zone of the European Union expanded to include nine European countries Friday in the largest expansion of the international consortium.
Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are part of the enlargement area known as the Schengen area. All nine countries joined the EU in 2004.
The inclusion eliminates border checks on land and sea entry points and the abolishment of air borders commences March 30, the EU Observer said Friday.
The expansion means Europeans can travel freely between all 24 countries in the Schengen area.
The expansion, however, wasn't met with unanimous approval as the short-stay visas to enter some countries increased from roughly $7 to as high as $80 in some countries.
Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer told the Observer the expansion was momentous.
"Free borders in a free Europe: who would have dared to even dream of that in 1985," Gusenbauer said.
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