Friday

20th Sep 2019

EU citizens to be checked at Schengen borders

  • Frontex is asked to cooperate more with Europol. (Photo: Frontex)

EU member states will today (20 November) call for systematic controls of EU citizens at the bloc's external borders and for full use of avilable technology to counter terrorism inside the Schengen area.

Justice and interior ministers are in Brussels on Friday holding an extraordinary meeting called after last week's Paris attack and amid criticism of security failures in the bloc’s passport free-travel area.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"There is urgency," French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said, while arriving at the meeting.

"We will be unwavering in order that necessary decisions are taken.”

Under France's impulse, ministers will call to "implement immediately the necessary systematic and coordinated checks at external borders, including on individuals enjoying the right of free movement", according to the draft conclusions of the meeting published by the Statewatch website.

"There is a clear demand for that" from the member states, a source close to the Luxembourg presidency of the EU Council told this website.

It means EU citizens entering the 26-country Schengen area will have their identity checked to ensure they’re not on any joint lists of suspect persons.

For the time being, they are subjected only to "a minimum check" consisting of "a rapid and straightforward verification,” according to the Schengen borders code.

Systematic verification

"On a non-systematic basis," the code says in its article 7.2, "border guards may consult national and European databases" to check that any EU citizen entering Schengen has not been red-flagged.

The push for systematic checks is being resisted by the EU Commission, which says the code already provides for the necessary controls and that member states need only to fully implement existing provisions.

"I don't know how the Commission is interpreting the law, but the Council is not interpreting 'non-systematic' as 'systematic'," the Luxembourg source said.

EU ministers say the commission shoulf modify article 7.2 of the Schengen code when it puts forward its proposal on a so-called smart borders package in March. The package is an upgrading of Schengen area technology to control borders and identify travelers.

Use of technology and databases will be the second main theme of Friday’s meeting, linking the fight against terrorism and crime to EU migration policy.

According to the draft conclusions, ministers will call for "systematic registration, including fingerprinting, of all migrants entering into the Schengen area and perform systematic security checks by using relevant databases."

Databases include the Schengen Information System (SIS), the stolen document database (SLTD), and the Visa Information System (VIS).

Ministers will also push for more coordination between Frontex, the EU border agency, and Europol, its joint police agency.

"Frontex will contribute to the fight against terrorism and support the coordinated implementation of the Common Risk Indicators (CRIs) before the end of 2015," the conclusions say.

The agency will be asked to "assist the member states to tighten controls of external borders to detect suspicious travels of foreign terrorist fighters and smuggling of firearms, in cooperation with Europol."

The so-called hotspots, which are currently in place in Italy and Greece to register, identify and select migrants, will have to be "equipped with the relevant technology."

This could prove problematic, as the mere setting up of hotspots has proved difficult, and because they remain Italy and Greece's sovereign responsibility, a EU source observed.

PNR

As it appears that the organiser of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was able to travel from Syria to Belgium and other EU countries, the ministers will also insist on adoption "before the en of 2015" of PNR - a data exchange system on EU air passengers.

They demand the PNR, "include[s] internal flights in its scope", which has been resisted so far by the EU Parliament.

"We strongly insist on that, it is a crucial element," the Luxembourg contact said.

Ministers also demand that passengers' records can be consulted for "a sufficiently long data period." France wanted a one-year period.

The meeting takes place as Europol chief Rob Wainwright warned Thursday that "further attacks are likely."

"We are dealing with a very serious, well resourced, determined international terrorist organization that is now active on the streets of Europe," Wainwright told MEPs.

"This represents the most serious terrorist threat faced in Europe for 10 years."

Ministers will push for measures to curb financing of terrorism and on arms control, but will not directly discuss intelligence cooperation.

"Europol is not a European FBI," Wainwright said, noting there is so far no "political appetite" in member states to go further.

He said that "information exchange between intelligence services has improved rather efficiently" and that "cooperation between police has much improved as well".

"But the bridge between police and intelligence work has to be more effective," he said.

Arriving at the ministers meeting Friday morning, EU home affairs commissioner Dimitris Avramaoproulis said "it is time to create the basis for an EU intelligence agency."

The EU foreign service already has an intelligence-sharing bureau - IntCen.

But previous calls to transform it into an operational. intelligence-gathering branch, first made after the Madrid terrorist attacks in 2004, have fallen on deaf ears.

EU agrees on Schengen checks for all

EU "collective reaction must be ruthless," said French minister, as controls are to be stepped up for migrants and EU nationals.

News in Brief

  1. Austria to veto EU trade deal with South America
  2. Brexit minister asks EU for 'flexibility' to secure a deal
  3. Kovesi has 'sufficient majority' for prosecutor post
  4. France, Finland give UK ultimatum for Brexit plan
  5. Minsk talks bode ill for EU's peace summit on Ukraine
  6. Poll: Poland's nationalist rulers to win October election
  7. Irish lawyers clash with EU commission in Apple case
  8. NGOs take aim at EU smartphone pollution

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  2. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  3. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  4. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  5. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants
  6. Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'
  7. A new Commission for the one percent
  8. Juncker: No-deal Brexit 'palpable'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us