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In an attempt to unify Europe and to promote free trade and easier travel throughout the region, the governments of most of the major countries in Europe signed a document on 26 March, 1995 to create the Schengen States. The most important impact this had is that one visa (or related travel document) is now required to enter and pass freely between the Schengen states and there is increasingly less rigourous border control on their common borders.

The Schengen countries are:

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

Conspicious by their absence are: United Kingdom, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

The name is derived from the Luxembourg village of Schengen on the Moselle, bordering both France and Germany, where the agreement was signed.

Upgrade of the definition of Schengen Countries (December 2013):

Today the Schengen Area consists of:

a) 22 of European Union Countries: Austria (Österreich), Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark (Danmark), Estonia, Finland (Suomi), France, Germany (Deutschland), Greece (Ελλάδα), Holland (Nederland), Hungary (Magyarország), Italy, Latvia, Lithuania (Lietuva), Luxembourg, Malta, Poland (Polska), Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (Espana), Sweden (Sverige),

b) 4 countries situated outside of the European Union Zone: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein,

c) 3 special countries - cities: Vatican, San Marino and Monaco.

There are a few countries which are eager to join the Schengen Zone.
The candidates to become next members of the Schengen Countries Group are: Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and Croatia.

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