Following the announcement by President Juncker in his 2016 State of the Union address, the Commission has recently published its proposal on the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) to strengthen security checks on visa-free travellers.
The ETIAS will gather information on all those travelling visa-free to the European Union, to allow for advance irregular migration and security checks thus contributing to a more efficient management of the EU’s external borders and improve internal security, whilst at the same time facilitating legal travel across Schengen borders.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said:
“Securing our borders and protecting our citizens is our first priority. ETIAS will close an information gap by crosschecking visa exempt applicants’ information against all our other systems. At the same time, the future ETIAS will be easy, quick, cheap and effective.”
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% of visafree travellers. Europe’s openness does not come at the cost of its security.”
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 ETIAS authorisation is not a visa; it is a lighter and more visitorfriendly 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 persons 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 ETIAS will also bridge an existing information gap on visa-free travellers by gathering information that could be vital to national authorities in advance of their arrival at the Schengen border, facilitating 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, prior verifications of all travellers will facilitate border checks and ensure a coordinated and harmonised assessment of visa-exempt thirdcountry nationals.
The ETIAS will be managed by the European Border and Coast Guard in close cooperation with the competent authorities of the Member States and Europol. The Agency eu-LISA will develop and provide technical management of this information system.
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.
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.