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EU border checks to stop foreign fighters

16 February 2017, 16:38 CET
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EU border checks to stop foreign fighters

Frontex border controls

(STRASBOURG) - All EU citizens and third country nationals entering or leaving the EU will be systematically checked against databases, e.g. of lost and stolen documents, under a regulation approved by MEPs Thursday.

The new regulation, which amends the Schengen Borders Code (SBC), obliges member states to carry out systematic checks on all persons crossing EU external borders against databases of stolen and lost documents, the Schengen Information System (SIS) and other relevant EU databases. The checks will be mandatory at all air, sea and land borders, on both entry and exit.

The rule change is a response to terrorist threats in Europe, as demonstrated by the recent attacks in Brussels, Paris and Berlin, and the phenomenon of "foreign fighters", i.e. EU citizens joining terrorist groups in conflict zones, such as Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

If these systematic checks are found to slow land and sea border traffic too much, EU Member States will be able to carry out only "targeted" checks - provided that a risk assessment has shown that this would not lead to threats to, inter alia, internal security or public policy.

People who are not subjected to a "targeted" check would at least have to go through an ordinary check to ascertain that their travel documents are valid and establish their identities.

At air borders, Member States will be able to use targeted checks for a six-month transition period after the new regulation enters into force.

This period may then be prolonged by a maximum of 18 months in some exceptional cases, e.g. where airports lack facilities to perform systematic checks against databases and need more time to adapt.

The regulation will enter into force on the twentieth day following its publication in the EU Official Journal. The rules will then be immediately enforceable, and in most member states simultaneously. Denmark, the United Kingdom and Ireland have all opted out of its scope.

Further information, European Parliament

Adopted text will soon be available here (16.02.2017)

Procedure file

EP Briefing: Schengen and the management of EU's external borders


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