European Commission adopts new Smart Borders initiative for frequent EU travelers

October 29, 2014 - 

The European Commission has adopted a new initiative which outlines the options for using new technologies to make it easier for foreigners who frequently travel to the EU as well as to effectively monitor third-country nationals crossing the borders.

Every year more than 700 million EU citizens and third country nationals cross the EU’s external borders – a figure that is expected to increase significantly in the future.

In fact, the number of people at European airports is expected to see an 80% increase by 2030, which will only lead to longer delays and queues for travellers if checking procedures are not updated accordingly.

“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 include an Entry/Exit System which would record the time and place of entry and the length of authorized short stays in an electronic database.

The new technology, which would replace the current system of stamping passports, would then send the data to border control and immigration authorities.

Additionally, the Registered Travellers Program would allow frequent travellers such as business travellers and family members from third countries to enter the EU, subject to appropriate pre-screening, using simplified border checks at automated gates.

The program would make the border crossing process faster for 4 to 5 million travellers each year, while promoting investments in modern automated border controls at major crossing points.

The EU commission still needs to discuss the actual implementation of these systems, factoring in their added value, technological implications, data protection implications and costs.

The commission will first discuss these issues with the European Parliament, the Council and the European Data Protection Supervisor, then compose and present legislative proposals at some point in the next year.

The initiative is a first response to the European Council conclusions on June 24, 2011, which recommended for work on “Smart Borders” to be pushed forward, and further elaborates on an initiative adopted in 2008 entitled “Preparing the next steps in border management in the European Union”.

Reported previously, former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini recently said in an interview with RT that EU member states must begin implementing stronger policies to ensure that “foreign fighters” and refugees are carefully monitored to ensure the safety of all residents.

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Stephen Mayhew is the publisher and co-founder of Biometrics Research Group, Inc.. Connect with Stephen on LinkindIn.