World Security Report News2014-11-04 14:18:22

EU 'Smart Borders': Commission wants easier access and enhanced security at its external borders

The EU needs a more modern and efficient management of traveller flows at its external borders. Today the European Commission adopted a Communication which sets out the main options for using new technologies to simplify life for foreigners frequently travelling to the EU and to better monitor third-country nationals crossing the borders.

Enabling smooth and fast border crossing for travellers, while ensuring an adequate level of security, is a challenge for many Member States. Every year more than 700 million EU citizens and third country nationals cross the EU's external borders. This number is expected to rise significantly in the future. By 20301 the number of people at European airports could increase by 80%, which will result in longer delays and queues for travellers if border checking procedures are not modernised in time. It is in the interest of the EU to make it as easy as possible for tourists and business travellers to come to Europe.

"The Union must continue to modernise the management of its external borders and ensure that the Schengen area is better equipped to cope with future challenges", said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs. "The 'Smart Borders' initiative would speed up border crossing for regular travellers but could also help us to better secure our external borders. We now need to make sure that the most efficient systems are in place and I am looking forward to discussing the available options with the European Parliament, the Council and the European Data Protection Supervisor".

The 'Smart Borders' initiative would consist of:

An Entry/Exit System (EES) which would record the time and place of entry and the length of authorised short stays in an electronic database, replacing the current system of stamping passports. This data would then be made available to border control and immigration authorities.

A Registered Travellers Programme (RTP) which would allow certain groups of frequent travellers (i.e. business travellers, family members etc.) from third countries to enter the EU, subject to appropriate pre-screening, using simplified border checks at automated gates. This would speed up border crossings for 4 to 5 million travellers per year2 and encourage investments in modern automated border controls (e.g. on the basis of e-passports) at major crossing points.

The implementation of these systems needs to be discussed in light of their added value, technological implications, data protection implications and costs.

The Commission will now discuss all these elements with the European Parliament, the Council and the European Data Protection Supervisor. It will then present legislative proposals during the course of next year.

This annoucement is a first response to the European Council conclusions (24 June 2011) which called for work on "Smart Borders" to be pushed forward.

It is part of a comprehensive approach to strengthen the overall governance of the Schengen area, as announced in the Communication on Migration adopted on 4 May 2011

It elaborates on a Communication adopted in 2008 entitled "Preparing the next steps in border management in the European Union".

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