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24th Feb 2024

Brussels to tighten EU external borders

  • The new measures should enter into force between 2012 and 2015 (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission is working on a new set of measures aimed at strengthening the EU's external borders in order to monitor migrants and track down criminals.

Next Wednesday (13 February), EU home affairs commissioner Franco Frattini is expected to table a border control package, consisting of three proposals.

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The package suggests setting up an entry/exit register of non-European visitors to the EU, and a European Border Surveillance System designed to detect those who enter the bloc between border crossing points.

In addition, Brussels is set to push for better use of the EU's border control agency, Frontex, particularly via "intensified" joint operations between member states at sea borders.

"It is now time to look ahead and develop the next generation of border management tools", Mr Frattini's paper says, while suggesting the package should become part of a priority list of the current Slovenian EU presidency.

All proposed measures could then enter into force between 2012 and 2015.

Travellers to face tighter checks

The cornerstone of Brussels' plans is the proposal to establish an electronic entry/exit register, which would enable the 27-nation bloc to keep better track of who is entering and leaving its territory.

In practice, the system would record the dates of entry and exit of each non-EU national admitted to the Schengen passport-free area.

The commission says it wants to have a better overview of travellers from beyond the EU who do not need a visa to enter the EU bloc. It also argues that thousands of foreigners currently overstay their visa, but the union has no tools for identifying them.

Apart from the entry/exit system, Brussels is also set to encourage member states to introduce "automated border-crossing checks", a procedure that employs new biometric technology such as eye scanners.

It will also open up a discussion on the possibility of setting up a system that requires non-EU travellers to obtain an electronic authorisation to travel before they leave for Europe - something that is already in place in Australia.

"The objective is to enhance security as well as to facilitate legitimate travelling," a commission official told EUobserver, underlining that crossing the external border must remain simple and quick for bona fide travellers.

Constant surveillance

Another of the commission proposals envisages the EU bloc eventually having a common European surveillance system for all land and maritime borders. This would be called EUROSUR.

The idea was first floated back in 2006 in relation to the EU's southern sea borders, which have been under the biggest immigration pressure.

"EUROSUR will ensure that unauthorised border crossing will not go undetected", the commission draft paper says, referring to advanced technology, including satellites, which would put Europe's borders "under constant surveillance".

The system should connect all EU member states and provide them with the information needed to intercept people trying to enter Europe who are bypassing regular border checks.

EU plans fully-fledged external border force

The EU Commission will propose a reinforced border and coast guard next week to strengthen the bloc's external border controls. It could be deployed to a member state without invitation.

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