Wednesday

28th Jul 2021

EU to create world's biggest bio-data pool

The EU bloc has taken the final step towards having the world's largest biometric database with 70 million sets of fingerprints, designed to boost border security by allowing EU states to share data on short-stay visas and visa applications from non-EU citizens who wish to enter the Schengen free-travel zone.

On Tuesday (12 June), EU interior ministers gave their backing to the so-called visa information system (VIS), which stores fingerprints and photos of people applying or holding a Schengen visa, and accessed by EU states participating in the Schengen free-travel zone as well as by the European police office, Europol.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The new system will "offer a new practical tool both for consulates and border checkpoints," to stop and apprehend criminals or terrorists at the bloc's external borders, EU home affairs commissioner Franco Frattini said, according to AP.

He added that the aim is to make the visa information system operational by spring 2009.

Currently, people from over one hundred countries are required to have a visa issued by an EU state before they enter the Schengen borderless area.

The newly-born database is designed to beef up border security and prevent what is known as visa shopping - when an applicant who is refused a visa by one Schengen country applies to others.

Lot of words, no deeds

This sense of cooperation all but disappeared however when it came to the issue of immigration.

EU state Malta had called for a burden-sharing and solidarity system regarding illegal immigrants.

The small island, with 400,000 inhabitants, has been overwhelmed by migrants crossing over from North Africa to Europe with some 7,000 people being picked up in waters off its coast in the last five years.

"It is only fair those immigrants who are saved are distributed on a rotational basis between the 27 EU member states", the Maltese interior minister Tonio Borg was cited as saying by AFP.

Mr Borg suggested that "temporarily those immigrants should go to the nearest European state until they are transferred to the designated country of destination" - the country of destination would be decided according to its size and population.

But Mr Borg's ambitious call met with strong opposition from his colleagues, with the French minister for immigration and national identity, Brice Hortefeux, saying "it seems very difficult. I do not see, technically, how we could do that".

Similar worries have been raised by the European Commission and the German EU presidency.

"I do not see how we can share out illegal migrants. It would give a bad signal to say - you can come, we will save you, we will distribute you among ourselves", commissioner Frattini's spokesperson said, according to the International Herald Tribune, hinting a proposal could act as a magnet for migrants.

German interior minister Wolfgang Schauble said there would be a "long road" before an agreement is reached.

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

LGBTI fears over new Polish member at EU institution

A letter sent to the European Economic and Social Committee by a group of cross-party MEPs fighting for LGBTi rights expresses fears that a recently-appointed Polish member may try to undermine those rights.

EU condemns Slovenian PM's harassment of journalist

Slovenia's populist prime minister Janez Janša attempted to discredit a Brussels reporter after she published a critical article about the state of media freedoms in the country. The European Commission condemned the PM's language - but refrained from naming him.

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU hits vaccination target, as Delta variant now dominates
  2. European arms 'displaced over a million people', research finds
  3. Brexit: what is the 'Lugano Convention' and does it matter?
  4. US maintains summer travel ban on EU tourists
  5. Does democracy need troublemakers?
  6. Separating migrant families at EU borders must stop
  7. Germany mulls restrictions for unvaccinated as cases soar
  8. 'Prison island' birthplace of EU reborn as think-tank venue

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us