EU’s new border system faces backlash from travel industry and civil rights groups

The EU’s Entry-Exit System (EES), which is set to be implemented in October 2024, has sparked criticism from various stakeholders, who warn of its negative impacts on travel, trade, and human rights. The EES will require third-country nationals to register their biometric data and passport details when entering or exiting the Schengen area, creating a massive database of travellers’ movements.

Entry-Exit System
Entry-Exit System

EES could cause long delays and disruption at the border

One of the main concerns raised by the travel industry is the potential for long delays and disruption at the border, especially at busy ports and terminals such as Dover, Calais, and St Pancras. According to the Port of Dover and several ferry companies, the EES could add up to 14 hours of waiting time for tourists, as the current infrastructure and staff are not prepared to handle the increased workload.

They claim that the EES poses an “existential risk” to the critical supply chains, businesses, communities, and the tourism economy of nations on both sides of the Channel, and urge the EU and the UK to find a suitable solution to avoid the chaos.

Eurostar, which operates the high-speed train service between London and Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam, also expressed its worries about the EES, saying that it was designed for airports rather than constrained city centre terminals. The company said that the EES would pose a “unique challenge” and that it was working closely with the authorities to minimise the impact on its customers.

EES could violate travellers’ privacy and rights

Another issue raised by civil rights groups and activists is the potential violation of travellers’ privacy and rights by the EES. The EES will store the personal data of millions of travellers for up to five years, and will allow access to various authorities, such as border guards, police, immigration, and judicial bodies. The EES will also be interoperable with other EU databases, such as the Schengen Information System (SIS), the Visa Information System (VIS), and the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS).

Critics argue that the EES will create a massive surveillance system that will track and profile travellers, and that it will increase the risk of data breaches, misuse, and discrimination.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), the EU’s independent data protection authority, has also expressed its reservations about the EES, saying that it will have a significant impact on the fundamental rights of individuals. The EDPS has called for more transparency, accountability, and proportionality in the implementation of the EES, and has recommended a regular review of its necessity and effectiveness.

EES could face further delays and challenges

Despite the criticism and the warnings, the EU seems determined to launch the EES by October 2024, as part of its efforts to enhance the security and management of its external borders. However, the EES could face further delays and challenges, as some of the EU agencies and member states involved in its development and operation have reported difficulties and shortcomings.

For instance, the eu-LISA, the EU agency responsible for the operational management of the EES and other large-scale IT systems, has been blamed by the Europol and the Frontex, the EU agencies for law enforcement and border control, for the delayed development and testing of the EES Central System. The Europol and the Frontex have also complained of insufficient staff, resources, and input from the member states to carry out their tasks related to the EES.

The EES is expected to affect around 39 million travellers per year, who will have to pay a fee of 7 euros and obtain a travel authorisation before entering the Schengen area. The EES will apply to citizens of more than 60 countries who can currently travel to the EU without a visa, such as the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, and Japan.

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