Monday

23rd Jan 2017

US and UK nationals to be caught in EU border dragnet

  • Etias applies to all air, land, and sea borders throughout the Schengen member states. (Photo: Marta Arribas, Madrid, Spain)

US nationals and British citizens, after Brexit, will be among the millions of travellers whose personal details will be collected in a new EU dragnet to catch security threats.

Any visa-free travellers who want to go to a passport-free Schengen EU state will, three years from now, first have to answer more than two dozen questions on their education, work, and health-related issues.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland also in the Schengen zone (Photo: UR-SDV)

Police and border guards will have access to the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (Etias).

"This system will help identify persons, who may pose security threats, also irregular migration," said EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avrampolous in Brussels on Wednesday (16 November).

"The new automated system will cross-check this information against all our relevant data," he said.

Etias will link up to around a half dozen existing databases in an effort to flag possible trouble makers.

That includes “relevant data" stored at the EU police agency, Europol, and Interpol's stolen and lost travel documents database.

The change is part of broader EU plans to improve border security in the wake of terrorist attacks and amid anti-EU populism over the migration crisis.

It risks drawing a new line between the US and EU at a fragile moment in relations and on top of existing disputes on visa-waivers.

It also underlines the reality of post-Brexit UK relations.

Not everybody thinks it is needed and it is unlikely to be operational by its three-year deadline.

German Green MEP Jan Phillip Albrecht, who spearheaded data protection reform in the EU, said: “What is missing [rom Etias] is the assessment and quick exchange of data about suspects and high risk individuals. The new system won’t solve this problem, but will be another instrument of surveillance of travellers”.

One EU source described the three-year timeline as ambitious.

Frans Timmermans, the commission first vice-president, also warned that it was “technically terribly complicated …This is about the personal data of people wanting to travel to the European Union, so we want to get it right.”

When it does enter into life, Etias will charge every EU visitor €5 in an online pre-screening process that should, according to commission estimates, only take a few minutes.

The registration fee spans five years, at which point, the traveller will have to apply again. Those under 18 will be exempt.

Currently, 1.4 billion people from around 60 countries benefit from visa-free travel to the EU.

The commission said the registration fee will offset an estimated development cost of €214 million and another €85 million in Etias annual operational costs.

EU leaders, at a Brexit-crisis summit in Bratislava in September agreed that border security was a top priority.

Etias aside, they aim to overhaul EU databases and, eventually, to screen every EU entrant, including EU nationals, at some 1,800 crossing points.

Databases that don't talk

Border guards currently have access to three databases, the Visa Information System (VIS), Schengen Information System (SIS), and Interpol’s stolen and lost travel documents database (SLTD).

People who require visas to enter are placed into VIS. It allows a border guard to cross-check fingerprints to verify the person's identity matches their ID.

The border guard can check SIS to verify if the person has an entry ban, an arrest warrant, or is reported missing.

He can also check Interpol’s SLTD to see if the ID has been reported stolen or missing.

Not every member state is using the systems properly, however.

Some enter bad data, some do not enter any data, while just half of EU states bother to cross-check visa information.

Systems are often not interoperable, making the process harder.

Entry-Exit and PNR

The EU wants to impose yet another system, called Entry-Exit, described as a tool to track people who overstay their 90-day visas, which is to be launched in 2020.

Co-legislators at the EU parliament and the EU Council, representing member states, are currently negotiating the project.

They passed earlier this year an EU passenger name records (PNR) bill in a stated effort to crack down on foreign fighters.

Few EU states have done anything to implement the sharing of airline passengers' data, despite receiving tens of millions of euros from the EU budget.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden to host EU social summit
  2. US Congress may Trump-proof Russia sanctions
  3. Fury over UK 'cover up' of failed missile test
  4. Theresa May: I will not be afraid to stand up to Trump
  5. Brexit will destroy NI peace deal, says Gerry Adams
  6. EU housing price increase by 4.3%
  7. EU trade chief says UK deal will take 'couple of years'
  8. German defence spending boost not enough for Nato goal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Influence of Turkish Politics in Europe After the Coup Attempt
  2. World VisionEU Urged to do Better Ahead of Helsinki Conference on Syria
  3. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  4. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  5. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  6. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  7. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  8. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  9. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  10. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  11. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  12. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London

Latest News

  1. EU says milk protest 'difficult to understand'
  2. Future of euro on EU agenda This WEEK
  3. Pope warns populism could lead to 'saviours' like Hitler
  4. How the EU can protect the world’s forest by tackling corruption
  5. Leftist newcomer takes lead in French Socialist primary
  6. Far-right groups pledge allegiance ahead of elections
  7. Trump pledges US-first foreign policy
  8. GMO opt-out plan remains in waiting room