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European Union Agrees to End Border Checks for New Members

The European Union has agreed to phase out border controls for its 10 newest members, providing they meet security and technical standards.

Fifteen countries inside and outside the European Union are members of the so-called Schengen zone and have no checks at their common borders. Citizens of those countries also do not have to go through checks at airports and seaports within the zone.

The agreement reached Tuesday provides for the phased removal of land border checks for the new EU countries beginning on the last day of 2007. By March of 2008, air and sea checks for the new members will be removed.

Eastern European countries that joined the European Union in 2004 have complained about their exclusion from the Schengen zone. EU officials say problems with a new computer system delayed the process.

The agreement temporarily extends the Schengen zone to the 10 new EU members if they can prove they have the capability to operate the new computer system and can maintain safety on their external borders.

Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.