In November 2016, the European Commission proposed to introduce ETIAS, an European Travel Information and Authorization System. The goal? To reinforce security of travel to the region. ETIAS is expected to be officially launched in 2021, and should contribute to pre-travel screening to identify individuals from visa-exempt countries who may pose a threat to the EU.
ETIAS is a new border security technology that is currently being developed by the eu-LISA agency. Besides ETIAS, which is still being designed, the EU already has several systems that contribute to identifying foreing nationals.
The European Union has been focusing more and more on developing technologies and implementing new laws to protect its external shared borders. For example, through Horizon 2020, the EU has set a budget of over EUR 1 billion between 2018 and 2020 on research and innovation with the goal of boosting the effectiveness of the EU’s security.
The EU is working on several fronts to enhance security and tackle several issues in this area, from illegal immigration to terrorism. The EU is also adopting new laws, upgrading EU external security, and implementing operational cooperation in several areas, including information exchange between entities. Horizon 2020 is currently funding research to ensure that Europe produces world-class science and technology.
Current Security Technologies in the EU
The European Union counts with several border security technologies. Several systems are managed by eu-LISA, which at this time is in control of the operations of the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II), the Visa Information System (VIS), and EURODAC.
The agency is dedicated to ensuring the highest levels of information security and data protection. It carries out the necessary research and development of new systems, such as ETIAS, and provides training plans for national authorities on technical use of IT systems.
SIS II is the biggest information system for public security in Europe. The system allows information exchange between national border control, customs and police authorities. This ensures the free movement of people takes place in a safe environment. SIS II manages alerts on missing persons, property, and identity documents.
At this time, 29 countries use SIS II: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Associated Countries connected to SIS II are: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
The Visa Information System (VIS) allows the 26 member states of the Schengen Area to exchange visa data. It has a central IT system and a communication infrastructure that links VIS to national systems. VIS connects consulates in non-EU countries with external Schengen States border crossings.
This system processes visa data in relation to short-term visas to visit or transit through the Schengen Zone. This system can identify and verify people from various countries. In short, VIS protects travelers, helps with asylum applications, fights abuses, and enhances security.
For its part, EURODAC is a border security technology that has established an asylum fingerprint database. When a person applies for asylum, regardless of where they are in the EU, their fingerprints will be saved in the EURODAC central system.
The system was established in 2003. It is an essential tool as it provides fingerprint comparison evidence to assist in determining the country responsible for examining an asylum application made in the EU.
What is the relation between ETIAS and Border Security Technologies?
ETIAS will serve as a border security technology and other current security technologies will also play a role. Travelers from 62 countries will need to apply online for an ETIAS visa waiver to visit the Schengen Area for stays of up to 90 days. ETIAS will be a travel authorization that will grant its holder the necessary permission to enter any of the 26 member states.
Applying for ETIAS will be a fairly simple and straightforward process. Applicants will be required to provide a few personal details and their passport information as well as answer a series of security questions. Once the payment has been made and the application has been submitted, the ETIAS system will cross-check the applicant’s data against several current security systems including, VIS, SIS II, EURODAC, Europol and Interpol. This way, the system can verify a traveler’s details and identify whether further documents are necessary.
If an application sparks an alarm, a team will manually verify the information provided, before making a final decision. Applicants will be notified in case their application is denied and they will also have the opportunity to appeal the decision.