EU officials named the date that nine of the bloc's new members would join the borderless travel zone, setting it for Dec. 21.
Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and the Czech Republic meet all requirements for joining the so-called "Schengen Zone," Portuguese Deputy Interior Minister Jose Magalhaes said.
Magalhaes, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, made the announcement during a meeting in Prague of officials from 18 EU nations. Previously, EU officials said the nine would join either Dec. 21 or 22.
Land and sea checks along their common borders will be abolished, but airport controls could remain in place until March.
EU justice ministers were expected to give final approval to the expansion of Schengen during a meeting Nov. 8.
Cyprus, the 10th nation to join the EU in 2004, has opted to keep some border checks for a further year.
The Schengen Zone takes its name from the village in Luxembourg where a treaty authorizing the abolition of border controls was signed in 1985.
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