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9th May 2021

Commission seeks mandatory ID checks on all EU nationals

Biometric data of all EU nationals will be cross-checked with police and security databases upon entering or exiting the EU in a wider effort to crack down on people who travel to Syria and fight alongside jihadists.

The European Commission issued the proposal on Wednesday (15 December) as part of a larger package on borders as the EU attempts to guarantee the future of the passport-free Schengen zone.

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  • All IDs will be cross checked when entering or leaving the EU (Photo: mpd01605)

The move comes amid a huge inflow of asylum seekers which has spooked authorities in Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, and Sweden into reintroducing internal Schengen border control checks over the past few months.

Coupled with the Paris attacks in November, where French and Belgian nationals killed 130 people, the EU is scrambling to tighten security and get a grip on its external borders in the hopes of saving Schengen.

"In an area of free movement without internal borders, managing Europe’s external borders must be a shared responsibility," said EU commission vice-president Frans Timmermans.

Some of the attackers in Paris had previously ventured to Syria to join Islamic state. An emphasis has been placed on detecting and preventing others from traveling to and from similar conflict zones.

Last month, Interpol chief Juergen Stock said law enforcement agencies have only identified around a quarter of the world's 25,000 foreign fighters.

“We need to close that gap,” he said.

In Europe, estimates suggest around 5,000 people have travelled to Syria to join jihadist militias.

"When they come back to Europe, some of these returning foreign fighters have been involved in recent terrorist attacks," says the commission.

The latest proposal is to amend the Schengen Borders Code to extend the same mandatory checks on non-EU nationals to everyone else.

IDs would be cross-checked with Interpol, the international police agency, national databases on lost and stolen objects, and the Schengen information system (SIS).

The checks will be done on a "hit/no hit" basis. IDs are not registered in the databases if there is no hit, the commission notes.

The SIS database is managed by Tallinn-based eu-Lisa, an agency set up to oversee data banks connected to EU asylum, migration, and border management policies.

In a sign of what can go wrong, in 2013, Denmark's justice minister said it had been hacked.

The system at the time was not operated by eu-Lisa but the agency told this website in November there "are no evidences on infiltrations to the current, second generation Schengen Information System."

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