Personal Immigration

EU 'Smart Borders'

The European Commission has recently adopted a Communication which sets out the main options for using new technologies to simplify life for foreigners frequently travelling to the EU and to better monitor third-country nationals crossing the borders.

Enabling smooth and fast border crossing for travellers, while ensuring an adequate level of security, is a challenge for many Member States. 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 increase by 80%, which will result in longer delays and queues for travellers if border checking procedures are not modernised in time. It is in the interest of the EU to make it as easy as possible for tourists and business travellers to come to Europe.

The 'Smart Borders' initiative would consist of:

•An Entry/Exit System which would record the time and place of entry and the length of authorised short stays in an electronic database, replacing the current system of stamping passports. This data would then be made available to border control and immigration authorities.

•A Registered Travellers Programme which would allow certain groups of frequent travellers (i.e. business travellers, family members etc.) from third countries to enter the EU, subject to appropriate pre-screening, using simplified border checks at automated gates. This would speed up border crossings for 4 to 5 million travellers per year and encourage investments in modern automated border controls (e.g. on the basis of e-passports) at major crossing points.

The implementation of these systems needs to be discussed in light of their added value, technological implications, data protection implications and costs.

The Commission will now discuss all these elements with the European Parliament, the Council and the European Data Protection Supervisor. It will then present legislative proposals during the course of next year.

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