In the EU’s Special Committee on Terrorism that took place in January 2019, Commissioner Avramopoulos spoke to those attending about the benefits that ETIAS will offer to counteract terrorism in Europe.

Various initiatives with the common goal of improving security in Europe were proposed in 2016 following a string of attacks perpetrated on European soil

Several of the schemes proposed in that meeting — including the Electronic Travel Authorization and Information System (ETIAS)— are currently being developed by the European Union.

ETIAS and Its Role in Counteracting Terrorism

The aim of these projects is to increase security by strengthening external and internal border control within Europe.

The European ETIAS will work in conjunction with other initiatives and agencies, such as Frontex —the European Border and Coast Guard Agency— to accomplish this common goal.

The strengthening of borders comes as a response to past attacks perpetrated in different European countries that have been attributed to terrorist groups.

Consequently, the European Parliament and European Council came to an agreement that included several proposals, including ETIAS and the Entry-Exit System (EES). Both systems are currently under development and should be able to tackle multiple issues the EU currently faces as soon as they are fully operational by the end of 2022.

Some of the areas in which the ETIAS and the EES will help the European Union achieve improved safety include:

  • Preventing threats to European security by prescreening travelers prior to their departure towards the EU against multiple security databases such as Europol and Interpol
  • Avoiding illegal migration by registering visa-exempt traveler’s arrival date to the EU, exit dates, length of stay granted to them by their travel authorization as well as failed or denied attempts to enter the continent
  • Actively stopping individuals who may pose health hazards to the wellbeing of Schengen residents by pre-screening passenger data before their trip to Europe

What Advantages Does ETIAS Offer for Travelers to Europe?

There are several ways in which ETIAS will be a huge benefit for both European citizens and visitors alike.

  • The European ETIAS visa waiver strategy will require all travelers who currently visit the Schengen Zone visa-free to obtain a travel authorization for Europe by filling out the ETIAS online application form. Applicants will be asked to provide basic personal information and passport details as well as answer simple security, health, and immigration-related questions.The ETIAS grants holders multiple short-term entries of up to 90 days within a 180-day period without needing to complete a new application for every trip nor any further visa paperwork. This authorization is valid for any and all 26 Schengen member nations for 3 years
  • The ETIAS program will, therefore, provide information on travelers who cross external borders into Europe while joining forces with other European agencies including Europol to maintain information on returning foreigners who may have ties to terrorism
  • Another advantage of ETIAS for travelers is that the system will offer information sharing between European Security agencies, allowing for better protection against the use of false identities or identity theft

The ETIAS Process

The ETIAS application form will be a simple and fast process for tourists to complete online. The majority of applicants will receive their approved ETIAS visa waiver via email within 24 hours of applying. A small minority of applications may need to be processed individually by a member of the ETIAS organizational structure. These rare cases may take up to 2-3 business days to be processed.

The new European visa waiver will allow eligible citizens from around the world to visit Europe easily and safely while helping border control, immigration authorities and member states of the EU effectively prevent and fight terrorist attacks.

Other Counter-Terrorism Measures in the European Union

Aside from the implementation of the ETIAS, the EU is enforcing other policies that aim to fight terrorism. EU actions to prevent future assaults include:

  • Meticulous systematic checks at Europe’s external borders for both EU citizens and third-country visitors
  • Improved national police and judicial cooperation with Frontex on tracing suspects, pursuing perpetrators, cutting the financing of terrorism, tackling organized crime, and, addressing radicalization
  • Reinforcing Frontex to reach its goal of 10,000 border guards and operational staff by 2027 to enable the agency to carry out border control and migration management as well as fight cross-border crime in conjunction with local authorities
  • New entry and exit registration system to record the movements of non-EU citizens across the Schengen borders and speed up controls
  • Temporary internal border control in certain countries to prevent terrorists from circulating freely within the EU EU-wide legislation on terrorism to stop individuals from the EU traveling to conflict areas in Syria and Iraq to join jihadist terrorist groups
  • Passenger Name Record (PNR) data such as names, travel dates, itinerary and payment method shared by airlines with national authorities to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute terrorist offenses, false identity use, and other serious crimes
  • Strengthening the Schengen Information System (SIS) to introduce alerts for terrorist-related activities, wanted or missing persons and lost or stolen property that police and border guards can consult as well as a biometric matching service to facilitate identification
  • Granting Europol (the EU police agency) more powers to advance in the fight against terrorism and support in the exchange of information between national police authorities and specialized units such as the European counterterrorism center
  • Updating the anti-money laundering directive to cut the financing of terrorism by eliminating terrorists’ sources of revenue and disrupting their logistics by increasing transparency in regards to the people behind companies and address risks linked to virtual currencies and anonymous pre-paid cards
  • Revising the European firearms directive to close legal loopholes and reduce access to dangerous weapons in order to avoid them falling into the wrong hands Stricter rules to obstruct access to ingredients needed to build home-made bombs, and other explosives that could be used in terrorist attacks
  • Boosting cybersecurity to prevent radicalization by obliging online companies and social media outlets such as Facebook and YouTube to delete terrorist content within one hour of receiving an order from authorities
  • Preventing radicalization and countering it by creating an EU-wide watchlist of hate preachers, segregating radicalized inmates in jails, educating and working on social inclusion of at-risk individuals
  • Cooperating with non-EU countries to enhance the EU’s external security

The EU is actively improving both its internal and external security through all of these initiatives as well as the ETIAS —scheduled to be fully operational by late 2022.