EU again delays launch of automated border control system

25th October 2023
The entry into force of the European Union’s new automated border control system has again been delayed, offering additional breathing space for Gibraltar amid concern about the practical impact of its introduction at the frontier with Spain.

The new Entry/Exit System [EES] had been due to come into force last May and was initially pushed back to the end of this year.

But now, the full introduction of the EES has been delayed to late 2024.

Introduction of the EU’s European Travel Information and Authorisation System, a new immigration system due to have come into force in November this year, has also been pushed back to early 2025.

The two systems are interlinked and, in the absence of a UK/EU treaty for Gibraltar, would mean much tighter controls on non-EU nationals – including people from Gibraltar – when entering the Schengen zone, including at Gibraltar’s land border with Spain.

The EU’s Justice and Home Affairs Council endorsed the revised timeline last week for the rollout of the new information systems, which are used to fight crime and control borders and migration.

It noted that the infrastructure needed for both the EES and ETIAS systems are “…in the process of being deployed.”

“The new roadmap for the delivery of the new IT architecture foresees that the Entry/Exit system will be ready to enter into operation in Autumn 2024 and that ETIAS will be ready to enter into operation in Spring 2025,” said Anitta Hipper, the European Commission spokesperson for home affairs.

Under the planned Entry/Exit System, non-EU nationals entering the bloc from a non-EU country – including Gibraltar – would need to register fingerprints and a photograph with their passport details.

Once travellers have given their fingerprints and details, that registration will be valid for three years.

Those details would then be used to conduct biometric checks – meaning fingerprint and facial scans – every time travellers enter the Schengen area, irrespective of the length of their stay.
This will replace passport-stamping.

The EES collects all personal data listed in a person’s travel document, as well as a facial images and fingerprints, and the date and place of entry or exit from and EU country.
Immigration authorities in European countries will use the EES to verify a person’s identity and understand whether they should be allowed to enter or stay in the EU. The data is also accessible by European law enforcement agencies.

The EES will replace the current system of manual stamping of passports, which the EU says is time consuming and does not provide reliable data on border crossings or systematic detection of “over-stayers”, meaning travellers who have exceeded the maximum duration of their authorised stay.

Under Schengen rules, non-EU citizens including British nationals after Brexit can only stay in the EU 90 days in any 180-day period before requiring a visa.

A non-EU national who overstays their 90 days can be removed from the territory, fined or detained, and even prevented from re-entering the EU in future.

The introduction of the EES will be a first step toward the EU’s new ETIAS framework, under which visa-exempt non-EU nationals will require authorisation prior to travelling to the Schengen zone.

British nationals will not require a visa to travel to EU countries but will have to register for authorisation from ETIAS and pay seven euros for a three-year visa waiver, much like the US ESTA system that has been in place for some years.

The EES and the wider ETIAS scheme are aimed at speeding up immigration procedures for non-EU nationals through automation, but many EU countries have voiced concerns that they will in fact slow them down.

Some countries believe clearance procedures could take up to four times longer than at present.