EU proposes new system to strengthen security checks on visa-free travellers

The European Commission said on November 16 that it was proposing to establish a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) to strengthen security checks on visa-free travellers.

This follows the announcement in September by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in his 2016 State of the Union address, and is a first deliverable of the priorities for action identified in the Bratislava Roadmap, the Commission said.

The ETIAS will gather information on all those travelling visa-free to the European Union to allow for advance irregular migration and security checks.

“This will contribute to a more efficient management of the EU’s external borders and improve internal security, while at the same time facilitating legal travel across Schengen borders,” the Commission said.

EC Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Securing our borders and protecting our citizens is our first priority. ETIAS will close an information gap by cross-checking visa exempt applicants’ information against all our other systems. At the same time, the future ETIAS will be easy, quick, cheap and effective.”

European Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “ETIAS is the missing link in our border management, connecting the dots with our migration and security policies and enhancing Schengen entry for at least 95 per cent of visa-free travellers.

“Europe’s openness does not come at the cost of its security,” Avramopoulos said.

European Security Union Commissioner Julian King said: “Terrorists and criminals don’t care much for national borders. The only way to defeat them is by working together effectively. ETIAS will help do that: by spotting problem individuals and stopping them from coming, we’ll enhance Europe’s internal security.”

The Commission said that the ETIAS authorisation is not a visa; “it is a lighter and more visitor-friendly regime”.

Nationals of visa liberalisation countries will still be able to travel without a visa but will have to obtain a simple travel authorisation prior to their travel to the Schengen Area.

This will help identify people who may pose an irregular migration or security risk before they arrive at the border and significantly enhance the security of the external borders, the Commission said.

The ETIAS will also bridge an existing information gap on visa-free travellers by gathering information that could be vital to EU countries’ authorities in advance of their arrival at the Schengen border.

“The ETIAS is therefore an important step forward towards stronger and smarter information systems for borders and security,” the EC said.

The ETIAS will also facilitate the crossing of the external border by visa-exempt third country nationals. Travellers will have a reliable early indication of entry into the Schengen area which will thus substantially reduce the number of refusals of entry.

In order to decide whether to issue or reject a request to travel to the EU, an automated system will conduct prior checks, in full respect of fundamental rights and personal data protection.

Although the final decision to grant or refuse entry will always be taken by the national border guards who are conducting border controls under the Schengen Borders Code, prior verifications of all travellers will facilitate border checks and ensure a coordinated and harmonised assessment of visa-exempt third-country nationals.

The ETIAS will be managed by the European Border and Coast Guard in close co0-operation with the relevant authorities of EU member states and Europol. The Agency eu-LISA will develop and provide technical management of this information system, the Commission said.



The Sofia Globe staff

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