Tuesday

23rd May 2017

EU unveils plans for biometric border controls

The European Commission on Wednesday (13 February) kicked off a lengthy legislative process aimed at tightening up controls on who enters and leaves the 27-nation bloc.

"This package designs a completely new way of controlling our borders", EU home affairs commissioner Franco Frattini said unveiling the three new proposals.

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.

They include an entry/exit register of non-European visitors, a European Border Surveillance System designed to detect those who enter the bloc between border crossing points as well as better use of the EU's border control agency, Frontex.

According to Mr Frattini, "the most advanced technology" will be used to make sure bona fide travellers continue to have access to the Schengen passport-free area but under tougher security conditions.

"We don't have an alternative. It's because of terrorist threats, criminality, paedophile networks. We cannot have them using better technology than police", the Italian commissioner said.

The "most ambitious" of Brussels' plans is the proposal to establish an electronic register, designed to monitor all non-EU nationals admitted to the Schengen zone, starting from 2015.

The system would record information on the time and place of a traveller's entry as well as the length of stay authorised. It would also automatically alert competent authorities, should a person be identified as over staying their time.

According to commission data, approximately 300 million people enter or leave the European Union each year - making the bloc the world's most popular tourist destination. Some 140 million of these crossings are made by non-EU citizens.

Brussels argues that thousands of foreigners currently overstay their visa, but the union has no tools for identifying them.

In 2006, there were up to eight million illegal immigrants within EU territory. Generally, over half of them tends to enter Europe legally, but become illegal by overstaying their right to stay.

Under Mr Frattini's proposal, all third-country visitors requiring a visa to enter the EU will have to provide their biometric data as part of their visa application, while those who don't need a visa will be checked on arrival.

Border-crossing points should be equipped with new biometric technology such as eye scanners to allow automated and more accurate identity verification.

The commission has also mooted the possibility of setting up a system that requires non-EU travellers to obtain an electronic authorisation to travel before they leave for Europe - a system already in place in Australia.

"Requiring an electronic authorisation to travel could be considered as an alternative to requiring a visa from the nationals of a third country, or be required from nationals from a third country currently not under the visa requirement", the commission proposal says, adding a study will be launched on this issue later this year.

Human rights groups as well as some EU parliamentarians have already questioned the plans from a right to privacy point of view.

"The EU is going down a very dangerous route of tracking, storing and accessing data on individuals' movements without an adequate grip on the consequences for privacy, notably through 'profiling', misuse and carelessness", UK liberal MEP Sarah Ludford said.

Instead, she called for "intelligence-led policing and targeted monitoring".

The European Council on refugees and exiles (ECRE) has raised concern over asylum seekers who will not be able to physically reach the EU due to the numerous border control measures.

"Whilst Europe's border are ever tighter and more secure, victims of persecution around the world are finding it ever harder to reach a safe haven", Bjarte Vandvik from the ECRE said.

"The construction of a common European asylum system will be meaningless if asylum seekers cannot reach the EU's territory", he added, pointing to the fact that "asylum applications in EU countries are at their lowest level for 20 years".

Brussels to tighten EU external borders

The European Commission is working on a new set of measures aimed at strengthening the EU's external borders, including a system that would track all non-EU nationals entering and leaving the bloc. It is also looking into a "constant surveillance" system for Europe's land and sea borders.

Children among dead in UK bomb attack

Children are among the victims after a suspected suicide bomber detonated at the Manchester Arena on Monday, the latest in a string of terror attacks to hit Europe.

EU and US discuss in-flight laptop ban

A meeting between US and EU officials in Brussels on possibly imposing a laptop ban on commercial flights was described by one senior Trump administration official as "robust".

EU visa waiver looms for Russia-annexed Crimeans

Visa liberalisation for Ukrainians entering the EU will also apply to inhabitants of the peninsula taken over by Moscow in 2014. But the issue poses administrative as well as political problems.

US questions visa waivers for EU nationals

A Republican congressman heading a taskforce on denying terrorists entry into the United States says that EU nationals pose a security risk, as some have fought alongside jihadists and wouldn't need visas to enter the US.

EU keeps visa-free travel for US visitors

Efforts by the European Parliament to scupper visa-free travel for Americans, in light of US restrictions on some EU states, were dashed on Tuesday by the European Commission.

EU visa waiver looms for Russia-annexed Crimeans

Visa liberalisation for Ukrainians entering the EU will also apply to inhabitants of the peninsula taken over by Moscow in 2014. But the issue poses administrative as well as political problems.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  2. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  3. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  4. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  5. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  7. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  8. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  9. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  10. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  11. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Cost of Speaking Out: Human Rights Violations Committed in Belarus