Brussels, 28 March 2008
Enlargement of the Schengen area to be completed: border controls to be lifted at airports on 30 March.
On 21 December 2007, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia became part of the Schengen area. On Sunday 30 March 2008 at 0:00, the enlargement process will be completed by lifting air border controls between these countries and with the 15 states that were already part of the Schengen system.
Vice-President of the European Commission, Jacques Barrot declared: "The dismantling of air border controls is the final step toward completion of a unique and historical achievement: 24 countries of the EU have no internal borders. The Commission pays tribute to those Member States that have put in place state of the art security systems and special "Schengen terminals" at their airports. The enlargement of the Schengen area demonstrates the EU's commitment to facilitating legitimate travelling within and into the EU whilst at the same time improving the security of Europe's external borders ".
After the lifting of land and sea border controls, which took place on 21 December 2007 (MEMO/07/619), also border controls at airports will be lifted on Sunday 30 March 2008 among Estonia, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia and between these countries and the former Schengen members.
This time gap was foreseen to match the date for lifting air border controls with the bi-yearly changes of flight schedules in airports, therefore allowing for a smoother adjustment in the EU airports concerned.
People will now be allowed to fly from one airport to the other within the enlarged Schengen area without any further formality. This will have a positive effect, reducing queues and easing procedures for EU citizens and others when flying within the Schengen area. Obviously identity checks by airline companies will be maintained at the check-in and when boarding. The standard security controls applied to every flight, regardless of destination, will be maintained.
The lifting of the air border controls within the extended Schengen area follows the decision taken in November 2007 when Justice and Home Affairs Ministers concluded that the Schengen acquis criteria had been met by all candidate countries.