Ensuring Europe’s security is undoubtedly a top priority. With the increase of migrantsa and tourism in the past years, it has become more evident that it is necessary to add another layer to the screening process for all those crossing Europe’s borders.
EU citizens will rest easier knowing that all those who do not require a visa to travel to the Schengen Area (currently 60 nationalities), will now have to provide their information for screening and apply for a travel authorization beforehand.
With that in mind, the EU Council has created the European Travel Information Authorization System (ETIAS visa waiver). The ETIAS is an automated IT system that will help identify and assess any risks associated with visa-exempt nationals traveling to and within the Schengen Area prior to their departure.
The ETIAS visa waiver for Europe will assist in identifying individuals who may compromise security or pose an irregular migration danger before they board an airplane or ship en route to the European Union.
Requiring that all visa-exempt travelers apply for a travel authorization through the ETIAS online application procedure will heighten security by gathering information on previously unknown visitors, that will be paramount to Member States’ border control and law enforcement authorities.
How Will the ETIAS Automated System Work?
The information collected via the ETIAS visa waiver system complies with fundamental rights and data protection laws and regulations.
The ETIAS will assess potential security or irregular migration risks. Through an advanced system, ETIAS will verify the information submitted by nationals from visa-exempt countries against multiple security databases, including Europol and Interpol, to grant or deny a travel authorization.
The data collected may also be made available to domestic law enforcement authorities if necessary for the following purposes:
- Prevention, detection or investigation of a terrorist offense, or other serious criminal offenses
- Identification of the perpetrator of a terrorist attack or other serious crime
The system will automatically check each application in the following databases:
Relevant Existing EU Information Systems:
The European Union currently has the following information systems in place which are being adjusted in order to work seamlessly together with the ETIAS verification procedures as well as other future systems:
- Is introducing new alerts for terrorist-related activities, wanted, or missing individuals
- Implementing a biometric search service to help authorities easily identify dangerous or conflictive subjects
The Visa Information System (VIS):
- Facilitates the verification and issuance of European visas and asylum requests
- Allows border guards to ensure that a traveler presenting a visa is its rightful holder
- Helps recognize fraudulent documents and take the necessary steps to protect the Schengen Area
- Protects citizens from identity fraud and theft
- Aids in preventing, detecting and investigating terrorist crimes and other illegal activities
Proposed Future EU Information Systems:
Alongside the development of the ETIAS, the EU is working on additional information systems to further improve its internal security, some of which include:
- The Entry/Exit System (EES), which aims to register the crossing of visa-exempt travelers through the Schengen borders as well as any failed attempts to enter the territory
- The European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) which should facilitate EU's national authorities’ access to criminal records of third-country citizens convicted in a Schengen Member State
Relevant Interpol databases:
The following security databases will integrate with the ETIAS in order to further amplify its efforts to make Europe safer for its residents:
- Interpol Stolen and Lost Travel Document database (SLTD)
- Interpol Travel Documents Associated with Notices database (TDAWN)
- A dedicated ETIAS watch list which will be established by Europol
By collecting relevant information on all visitors before their arrival to the Schengen border and comparing it to the aforementioned databases, ETIAS will help close existing security information gaps and provide vital information to the authorities of all the Member States.
The ETIAS will also assist in:
- Determining potential risks and/or suspicious individuals and therefore help take action before they reach the Schengen Area’s external borders
- Improving the detection of human trafficking, particularly in the case of minors
- Helping tackle border-crossing criminality
- Aiding in the identification of individuals whose presence in the Schengen area could pose a security threat
- Performing speedier in-depth EU and third-country passenger checks at external European borders
Other EU Regulations to Improve Security in Europe
The European Union is currently implementing other tactical measures that go hand-in-hand with the ETIAS visa waiver. All of these initiatives work in a coordinated manner to make Europe safer for its inhabitants and visitors alike.
For instance, the EU is reinforcing Frontex and increasing its scope which includes more extensive cooperation between the European Border and Coast Guard Agency and national authorities which will improve their ability to:
- Trace individuals
- Pursue perpetrators
- Prevent money-laundering and financing of terrorism
- Preventing radicalization
- Address cross-border crime
In addition, certain 6 Schengen states (Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, and Sweden) have implemented provisional internal border control due to exceptional circumstances. This was instated as a resource to block terrorists from traveling freely within the European Union.
EU Measures to Prevent Radicalization in Europe
Legislations approved alongside ETIAS with the intention of avoiding radicalization of EU individuals and, therefore, protecting the wellbeing of Schengen residents include:
- Preventing EU citizens from visiting conflict areas in Syria and Iraq with the intention of joining jihadist terrorist organizations
- Promoting cybersecurity to counter radicalization by requiring social media companies such as Facebook and YouTube to eliminate terrorist content within one hour of receiving an order from officials
- Creating a continent-wide hate-preacher watchlist, isolating radicalized prisoners in jails as well as tutoring and working towards the social inclusion of at-risk persons
Thanks to all of these measures, the number of terrorist attacks as well as its victims have diminished significantly in the European Union in 2018 and are expected to drop further in subsequent years as more policies and EU security systems become fully operational.