The member states have been waiting for it for two years, and now the EU Entry-Exit System (EES) for the Schengen area is on the table. The European Parliament's Greens group had immediately said no' to a "technological Big Brother" in the EU.
The European Commission's answer to national demand for increased border security has been, therefore, on 28 February, to propose state-of-the-art technology. The aim is to reduce pressure at the 1,800 crossing points in the borderless Schengen area. Cecilia Malmstrom, the commissioner responsible for internal security, said: "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 2030, the number of people at European airports could double, reaching over 700 million" (compared with 400 million in 2009).
Two measures are in the works. Firstly, a Registered Traveller Programme (RTP) would simplify checks for frequent non-EU travellers, after their identity and documents have been pre-screened and vetted. This would concern five million foreign legal' travellers, including business travellers, workers on short-term contracts, researchers and students, third-country nationals with close family ties to EU citizens. Automatic border passage points already exist in the Schipol Airport in the Netherlands, and in Frankfurt Airport in Germany. Those wanting to apply for the European programme would have to pay 20 for their application to be screened or 10 if they apply for a multiple-entry visa at the same time.
Secondly, an EU Entry-Exit System would record the date and place of border crossings. It would also calculate the duration of the short-stay carried out and would warn national authorities if the allowed duration is exceeded. This would also concern visitors whose countries are exempt from a visa obligation. In proposing such a system, the Commission is in fact taking its cue from 13 member states that have already established it (Finland, Estonia, Spain, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Portugal and Malta).
Data - that would be accessible by border authorities - would be kept for a maximum of six...