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Euroviews. Will the EU’s new Entry/Exit system cause a travel backlog?

A road sign with the border crossing symbol crossed out is seen at the Gorican border in Croatia, January 2023
A road sign with the border crossing symbol crossed out is seen at the Gorican border in Croatia, January 2023 Copyright AP Photo/Euronews
Copyright AP Photo/Euronews
By Tony Mercer, former UK senior civil servant
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

The EES will certainly enhance border control and migration management, but it will also create significant operational challenges for EU member states that could affect travellers' experience at border crossing points, Tony Mercer writes.

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Over the last few decades, governments have had to deal with accelerating growth in global travel and the need for their countries to remain competitive as a destination of choice for tourism, trade, investment and education.

But, equally, they have also had to balance this with the need to deal with a fast-evolving economic, political, social and security environment which has seen increasing threats to public security.

These priorities have led to the development of new biometric and digital technologies, which have driven more efficient, effective and secure border and migration services, both overseas and in-country.

Identity assurance is now right at the heart of these services. 

What's going to change come October?

The EU Entry/Exit System (EES) — due to come into effect in October to replace the current practice of manually stamping passports — will automate the registration of travellers from third countries each time they cross an EU external border and is one of these key developments.

By registering a person’s fingerprints, facial image and date/place of both entry and exit, the EES is designed to improve the quality of border checks, prevent irregular migration and enhance security.

The system should also help facilitate genuine travel into the EU while providing a systematic and more reliable identification of overstayers and illegal migrants.

Airport employees install an Information sign next to Non-Schengen automatic border control gates, at the Henri Coanda International Airport near Bucharest, March 2024
Airport employees install an Information sign next to Non-Schengen automatic border control gates, at the Henri Coanda International Airport near Bucharest, March 2024AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru

The implementation of the EES will, however, pose operational challenges for EU member states — including a more complex border flow.  Other challenges will be additional processing time, infrastructure pressures and interoperability.

EU member states are already adapting their processes to deal with these challenges.  The border crossing experience for third-country nationals will change, and this may involve longer processing times.

The EES regulation provides for National Facilitation Programmes to enable accelerated border facilitation for low-risk, pre-vetted and pre-registered travellers. Although some authorities have shown interest in this, their initial priority has been the implementation of self-enrolment kiosk technology at border control points. 

Can the EU benefit from working with external providers?

One option to streamline the process is for EU member states to bring in trusted external service providers to mitigate some of the challenges arising from the new system by applying their biometric enrolment capabilities to pre-register travellers to the EU — particularly where operational pressures pose a risk of disruption. 

Collaboration with such external providers is nothing new.  When the role of biometric technology in visa issuance became increasingly important, it created a significant strain on consular resources.  

Biometric capture requires physical interaction with applicants, which puts pressure on existing infrastructure, human resources, geographical reach, capacity, and funding, as well as the need to integrate systems and business processes in order to ensure the integrity and security of the application process.  

To solve such operational issues, EU governments turned to external providers to assist them in dealing with the non-judgmental side of their visa issuance services, such as biometric enrolment (including the secure transmission of data to national systems) and visa application administration.

Working with such providers to deliver these services is now an integral part of border and migration services around the world. This collaboration has eased staffing, infrastructure and financial pressures whilst streamlining processes. 

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The EES will certainly enhance border control and migration management, but it will also create significant operational challenges for EU member states that could affect travellers' experience at border crossing points.

This is where external providers can add value by facilitating a streamlined process for third-country nationals travelling to the EU. 

Tony Mercer is a former UK senior civil servant specialising in border, migration and identity management.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at view@euronews.com to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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