Monday

9th Dec 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • 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. Greece denies access to fair asylum process, report says
  2. Report: Self-regulation of social media 'not working'
  3. Turkey: Greek expulsion of Libyan envoy 'outrageous'
  4. Merkel coalition may survive, says new SPD co-leader
  5. Von der Leyen Ethiopia visit a 'political statement'
  6. Over 5,500 scientists ask EU to protect freshwater life
  7. Iran defies EU and UN on ballistic missiles
  8. Committee of the Regions: bigger budget for Green Deal

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 Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Russia makes big promises to Arctic peoples on expansion
  2. UK election plus EU summit in focus This WEEK
  3. Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres
  4. Searching for solidarity in EU asylum policy
  5. Will Michel lead on lobbying transparency at Council?
  6. Blood from stone: What did British PR firm do for Malta?
  7. EU Commission defends Eurobarometer methodology
  8. Timmermans warns on cost of inaction on climate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us