The first electronic border control desks in Bulgaria were opened at Sofia Airport’s Terminal 2 on August 28 2012.
The four electronic border control counters enable scanning of biometric data in passports. They were installed using funding of 572 000 leva (about 286 000 euro) European Union funding from the “external borders” project.
Processing through the electronic border control desks takes less than a minute. They may be used by citizens of the European Union, European Economic Area andSwitzerlandwho hold a passport with an electronic chip and are more than 18 years old.
The system checks the validity of the passport and compares it to biometric data, against 17 specific points on the face, establishing whether the person with the passport and the passport’s owner are one and the same.
Simultaneously, the equipment checks records related to the passport-holder in the Schengen Information System, including in regard to outstanding arrest warrants.
Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, said that the country was determined to continue to use EU funds to improve security at external borders.
Bulgariahas been held back from membership of the EU’s Schengen visa zone because concerns among Western European countries about organised crime and corruption.
The Netherlands has been most consistent in its opposition, but in early August, German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich also expressed reservations, being quoted as saying that the proposed first phase of including Bulgaria’s airports and ports in Schengen could be postponed.