European Union (EU) interior and justice ministers on Thursday formally approved non-EU member Switzerland`s accession to the Schengen passport-free zone from Dec. 12, which will become the 25th member under the unique mechanism, according to Xinhua.

    During their meeting on Thursday, the EU ministers agreed that Switzerland had met standards for security conditions to join the Schengen zone. Citizens from Schengen members can travel passport-free across the entire zone.

    From Dec. 12, land border checkpoints are to be closed, but people entering Switzerland by air from Schengen nations will still have their passports checked until March 29, 2009.

    The agreement to set up the Schengen zone was signed in Schengen, Luxembourg in 1985. So far, 24 nations have joined the zone, including two non-EU countries, Norway and Iceland.

    Among the 27 EU states, Britain and Ireland have opted not to join the Schengen group, while Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus have yet to meet border control standards required for membership.