28 March 2012
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Member States and "friends" gear up for "Smart Borders"
The Danish Council Presidency held a EU conference on "Innovation Border Management" in February 2012. It was attended by EU Member States, associate Schengen States (ie: Norway and Switzerland), Frontex, the USA, the United Arab Emirates and IATA.
On the agenda was the Registered Travellers Programme (RTP, intended to fast track business passengers through airports) and the proposed Entry-Exit System (EES, for third country nationals entering and leaving the EU at its external borders). In the background is the Commission's proposals for "Smart Borders - options and the way ahead". 
The discussion on "Smart Borders" concluded 1) that there should a "central architecture" both both RTP and EES based on biometric data (e-passports and/or fingerprints); 2) that the majority of third country nationals entering would be business people "who constitute a minimal threat with regard to illegal immigration and security"; and 3) that all relevant systems should be brought within the scope of border management:
"not just the Visa Information System (VIS) and the Schengen Information System (SIS and the future SIS II), but also the collection of Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Records (PNR), for the purpose of the overall security assessment of each traveller"
The EES is said to be useful not just for tracking visa overstayers but also for tackling "illegal" immigration, cross-border crime and "the fight against the black market economy" (sic) which does not necessarily follow unless the personal data is also cross-checked with national watchlists in an automated way.
The plan also begs the unanswered question of whether the tracking, detaining and deportation of overstayers is going to extend to countries on the visa "white list" like Canada, Australia, Japan and the USA?
And perhaps the sting is in the tail, namely that of cost. Perhaps some of the new EU budget can be grabbed or failing that they should look "to the private sector, such as carriers [airlines] and airports to be involved in the financing of the system". Well, the airlines are getting pretty fed up with having to bear the costs of every new "security" system thought up by the law enforcement agencies and the multinational suppliers (remember the liquids ban which is due to be abolished soon).
1. EU conference on Innovation Border Management, Council doc no: 7166-12 (pdf) And see: Current State of Play in relation to innovated border management in the EU - by member state (pdf) and France (pdf)
2. European Commission: On an entry/exit system at the external borders of the European Union, facilitation of border crossings for bona fide travellers, and an electronic travel authorisation system (2008, pdf)
3. European Commission: Smart borders - options and the way ahead (COM 680, 2011, pdf)
a) Council of the European Union: Member State responses (2009): Questionnaire on the possible creation of a system of electronic recording of entries and exits of third country nationals in the Schengen area (Council doc no: 8552-09, 96 pages, pdf)
b) As above: replies from France, Cyprus and Finland (Council doc no: 8552-ADD1-09, pdf)
c) As above: replies from Bulgaria, France (EN translation), Italy, Portugal, Iceland and Norway (Council doc no: 8552-ADD2-09, pdf)
d) As above: Reply from: Greece (Council doc no: 8552-ADD3-09, pdf)
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