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French authorities seeking to expand smart borders initiative to include EU nationals


The French delegation in Brussels wants the European Commission to broaden the scope of the ‘smart borders’ initiative to include European nationals, which would require all travellers to submit their fingerprints and potentially have their faces scanned, according to a report by EU Observer.

Discussed at last week’s EU interior ministers meeting in Luxembourg, the smart borders initiative is designed to effectively monitor third-country nationals crossing the border through biometric scanning and involves both the registered travellers programme (RTP) and the entry-exit system (EES).

The Commission says the two systems are imperative in speeding up travel times and detecting people overstaying their visas.

The smarter borders initiative was initially shelved after being proposed by the European Commission in 2013 over concerns abouts its billion-euro budget and law enforcement access, but was eventually adopted in October 2014.

Following an ongoing study and pilot project launched in February, the proposal is now due for an update before the end of year.

In an internal document dated September 25, the French delegation in Brussels called for the Commission to extend the same biometric system to include all member state citizens.

The document said the expanded smart borders initiative is required as an added precaution against terrorist threats, migratory pressure, and greater passenger numbers.

Interior ministers at the Luxembourg meeting also discussed the future roll out of the EU’s passenger name records (PNR) bill, which calls for the collection of biometric data on all individuals flying into or out of the EU.

Lawmakers say the bill includes safeguards to protect data. However, many have questioned this claim after the European Court of Justice found the EU’s data retention law to be disproportionate because it allowed for the mass collection of data from those individuals who are not suspected of any crime.

The French delegation paper coincides with the introduction of a controversial international electronic communications surveillance law in France, which many critics have compared to the covert spying operations conducted by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

An oversight committee has been established to prevent French prime minister Manuel Valls from abusing the new power, however, the committee can only give non-binding recommendations.

Previously reported, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) announced that about 20 industry experts met to discuss the European Agency for Large-Scale IT Systems’ (eu-LISA) pilot project on the EU’s smart borders system.

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