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UPDATE: EU postpones launch of EES border entry system once again

The EU has announced that its EES border system - which includes taking biometric data from non-EU visitors - will be delayed once again from its planned start date of May 2023.

UPDATE: EU postpones launch of EES border entry system once again
Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

Schengen countries are set to tighten up security at the external borders with the introduction of a new digital system (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens.

The new system, which will require non-EU travellers to register and have biometric data including fingerprints taken at the border, was due to come into force in May 2023 after already having been pushed back from 2022.

But this week it was announced – perhaps to no-one’s surprise – that the system will not be ready by May. Although a new date has not been set the EU now says it will be launched “by the end of 2023”.

According to the travel site TTGmedia.com which first revealed the delay, the decision was taken at an EU meeting in Tallinn last week.

It was agreed the May 2023 target “was considered no longer achievable due to delays from the contractors”.

Stakeholders, including airports and port authorities on the northern French coast, should continue to prepare for a target launch date “within the end of 2023”.

“In particular, border crossing points should be fully equipped for the use of the Entry/Exit System by the end of the year,” read a summary of the meeting.

A new more detailed timeline for the rollout is expected to be revealed in March.

The Local had previously reported in November how governments across Europe feared the new checks will cause long delays at borders – particularly at the UK-France border, where the boss of the port of Dover predicted “tailbacks throughout Kent”. 

What is the new EES system?

This doesn’t change anything in terms of the visas or documents required for travel, or the rights of travellers, but it does change how the EU’s and Schengen area’s external borders are policed.

It’s essentially a security upgrade, replacing the current system that relies on border guards with stamps with an electronic swipe in/swipe out system that will register more details such as immigration status.

It is for the EU’s external borders, so doesn’t apply if you are travelling between France and Germany for example, but would apply if you enter any EU or Schengen zone country from a non-EU country eg crossing from the UK to France via Channel Tunnel or flying into Germany from the US.

It will apply when entering all EU member states, apart from Cyprus and Ireland, as well as four non-EU countries in the Schengen Area: Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Travellers will need to scan their passports or other travel document at a self-service kiosk each time they cross an EU external border. It will not apply to foreign residents of EU countries or those with long stay visas.

When non-EU travellers first enter the Schengen/EU area the system will register their name, biometric data, and the date and place of entry and exit. Facial scans and fingerprint data will be retained for three years after initial registration.

The system will digitally track the number of days non-EU citizens spend in the union to ensure people do not overstay the permitted 90 days in any 180-day period in the Schengen area.

Also due to come into effect in 2023 is ETIAS – this will require tourists to register in advance for a visa and pay €7. This is due to launch in November 2023, and the EU has so far not announced any change to this date.

Member comments

  1. I’m concerned about this as I have found my fingerprints are difficult to recognize. Don’t know why, but I’ve had to be “re-fingerprinted” at the Questura a couple of times. When getting my FBI report in the USA, my fingerprinting exercise took hours.

    This was due to the small, portable readers being unable to confirm my prints time after time after time after time. Expert staff had to be called in and I stood a good chance of having to forego any business associated with fingerprinting.

    This will be – if the equipment isn’t top-notch and the operators skilled – a nightmare. I’m guessing I’m not the only person in the world with prints that are difficult to read. Hope they allow for odd circumstances similar to mine for identifying entrants into the EU.

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PARIS

‘Drunks, drug-dealers and pickpockets’ – French police crackdown at Paris Gare du Nord

Police in the capital are planning a massive operation to clean up Paris' chaotic and grotty Gare du Nord station - described by the local police commander as "full of drunks, crack dealers and pickpockets".

'Drunks, drug-dealers and pickpockets' - French police crackdown at Paris Gare du Nord

Gare du Nord serves not only as one of the major rail hubs for the capital, but also the arrival point for the Eurostar and shuttles from Paris’ two main airports – meaning that it is often the first part of the city that tourists see.

And it doesn’t give a good impression – the station is dark, confusingly laid out and its infrastructure is crumbling, so it’s far from uncommon to see buckets placed to catch water from the leaking rook.

But it’s the security aspect that worries the police – as the station has also become a hotspot for pickpockets, unlicensed taxi drivers, illegal street vendors and drug dealers, as well as a hangout for homeless people, many of whom have mental health problems.

Although the biggest security problem is undoubtedly pickpocketing – especially of confused, newly arrived tourists – there are occasionally more serious incidents, such as the attack on January 11th when a man randomly assaulted seven members of the public with a sharpened chisel.

A year previously, another knife-wielding man, later revealed to be homeless and with mental health problems who frequented the station, was shot by police.

Police presence in the station has now been massively stepped up, with dozens of officers patrolling at all hours of the day and night, in addition to the soldiers from Operation Sentinelle who make regular patrols of Gare du Nord (and other sites that have the potential to be terror attack targets).

The commander of the unit based at Gare du Nord told Le Parisien: “Unlicensed cigarette sellers, crack cocaine dealers, pickpocketing, drunk people – these are all problems that characterise Gare du Nord.

However, she added that things have improved in recent years, saying: “There is no longer a war between rival gangs, who used to come here regularly to fight in front of the [now-defunct] Foot Locker store. Many new stores have moved in. The light is soothing. It’s not an anxiety-provoking place at all.”

The station – through which 700,000 people pass every day – has long been a sore point for city authorities, who are well aware of the poor impression it gives to new arrivals.

However in 2021, an ambitious plan to completely redevelop it and add a huge new shopping mall was rejected. Instead, it was decided to simply give the existing station a revamp in time for the 2024 Olympics. 

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