Systematic checks of EU citizens at external borders

0
100

The European Commission welcomes the agreement reached today by the European Parliament and the Council on the Commission’s proposal to introduce mandatory systematic checks of all travellers, including EU citizens, against relevant databases when crossing the EU’s external borders. The Commission now looks forward to the swift adoption of the proposal by the European Parliament Plenary and the Council.

On this occasion Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos said:

“In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, we proposed to introduce systematic checks of all citizens at all external borders so we know exactly who crosses our borders. I welcome that the European Parliament and the Council have now agreed on our proposal to modify the Schengen Borders Code to that effect. In addition to the successful launch of the European Border and Coast Guard in October, enforcing systematic controls on all travellers crossing EU external borders is another crucial step in our work to preserve the freedom of movement within the Schengen area and ensuring the security of our citizens.”

Commissioner for the Security Union, Julian King said:

“Terrorists don’t respect national borders and systematic checks at the external borders are a key way to stop them from coming into the EU but also from travelling to conflict zones. I welcome today’s agreement as it will mean that for the first time all those entering and exiting the EU will be checked against a key database for law enforcement in the EU – the Schengen Information System. It will help detect all the wanted individuals who have an alert placed on them– including foreign terrorist fighters. The agreement should now be formally adopted by the co-legislators so that it can enter into force and be applied by Member States as soon as possible.”

While third-country nationals are already subject to systematic document and security checks against relevant databases upon entry, the targeted reform of the Schengen Borders Code also introduces mandatory systematic checks of EU citizens against relevant databases, namely the Schengen Information System (SIS) and the Interpol Stolen and Lost Travel Documents Database (SLTD). In addition, Member States will have the possibility to carry out systematic checks of EU citizens against other relevant national systems and other Interpol databases. Furthermore, third-country nationals will now also have to be checked systematically upon exit against SIS and Interpol’s SLTD. This should be done strictly respecting data protection rules and the EU’s legislation on fundamental rights.

In response to the attacks in Paris in November 2015 and the growing threat from foreign terrorist fighters, the Commission has swiftly taken action to accelerate work and implementation of measures under the European Agenda on Security. The proposal agreed upon today responds to the need to reinforce security controls at the EU’s external borders. The proposal was adopted by the College of Commissioners on 15 December 2015, as called for by Interior Ministers on 20 November 2015.

Security has been a constant theme since the beginning of the Juncker Commission’s mandate – from President Juncker’s Political Guidelines of July 2014, to the latest State of the Union address in September 2016. Internal security and the fight against terrorists have been further prioritised in the Bratislava Roadmap and the October Conclusions of the European Council.

Since the adoption of the European Agenda on Security on 28 April 2015, significant progress has been made in its implementation. Most recently, on 6 October the European Border and Coast Guard became operational, only 9 months after the Commission’s proposal in December, showing a clear commitment to reinforce the management and security of the EU’s external borders. On 16 November the Commission proposed to establish a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) to strengthen security checks on visa-free travellers.

The latest progress report on the Security Union highlighted the urgent need for the European Parliament and the Council to follow through on their commitments and reach agreement on the Commission proposals on the revision of the Firearms Directive, the Directive on Combatting Terrorism and on the establishment of systematic checks of all persons crossing the external borders of the EU.

The creation by President Juncker of a specific Commissioner portfolio for the Security Union in August 2016 shows the importance the Commission has attached to stepping up its response to the terrorist threat.