Statement by Commissioner Avramopoulos at the European Parliament Plenary Session on the Smart Borders package

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10 Jun 2015
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos

Thank you for a further opportunity to reflect with you on Smart Borders and, more generally, the need to modernise EU border management. 

The Commission's Smart borders package of 2013 has already been discussed with Parliament and Council.  

As announced in the Agenda on Security that we have adopted on 28 April as well as in the Agenda on Migration presented on 13 May, it is now our intention to present by the beginning of 2016 a revised proposal on Smart Borders. 

Today’s reality is that Member States are confronted with difficulties to manage the growing traveller flows at borders and to fulfil the obligations set by the Schengen Border Code. 

There were an estimated 200 million border crossings last year by third country nationals 

and a 50% increase is expected in the next decade. 

Borders must benefit from technology. 

The Smart Borders System will automatically record all incoming and leaving third country nationals and support border guards in their tasks. 

It will also enable the automation or semi-automation of the border controls for travellers already known by the system. 

This will allow us to face the increases in traveller flows.

Smart Borders will also help us in making our policy against irregular migration more effective: By systematically recording all incoming and leaving third country nationals, the system will automatically identify the travellers who stay longer than the authorised period. 

Smart Borders will also help in identifying the "undocumented" persons present in the Schengen area. 

And finally it will support an informed visa policy decision making process taking into account the actual over stayer figures provided by the system.

The question of possible Law Enforcement Access will be a key issue to be addressed in the Impact Assessment for the new proposal. 

The Commission already acknowledged in the Impact Assessment accompanying the 2013 proposals that the data generated in the Entry-Exit could be of use to law enforcement authorities in the fight against terrorist offences and other serious criminal offences, in specific cases, both as an identity verification tool and as a criminal intelligence tool. 

But any decision to decide to allow law enforcement access from the outset needs to be based on the demonstrated necessity and proportionality of the measure. 

Strict specific substantive and procedural safeguards would need to be laid down, taking also into account the rulings of the European Court of Justice on data protection. 

Let me now share with you some of the emerging ideas for how we could increase efficiency and effectiveness of border management. 

These are of course not yet conclusive, as discussions are still ongoing, and the testing phase is still underway.  

These issues will all be covered in depth in the updated impact assessment the Commission is undertaking to inform its revised proposal. 

The initial findings of the technical study seem to point to potential advantages of one single piece of legislation that as in 2013 would be accompanied by a technical modification of the Schengen Border Code. 

Let me give you an idea of the questions that in my view need to be answered in the context of our impact assessment, in addition to the already mentioned issue of law enforcement access and of course the financial implications and efficiency questions: 

  • As regards the ‘architecture’ of the system, should Smart Borders rely on a single system – rather than separate systems for Entry/Exit recording and Registered Traveller management?
  • Can we further reduce the data items about each traveller foreseen while still achieving our objectives?
  • How long should be the data retention periods for Entry-Exit and for Registered Travellers, in full compliance with data protection rules? 
  • Can we introduce a "lighter" form of biometric identifiers whilst maintaining the effectiveness of the system?
  • How to facilitate border crossings for the very large majority of travellers that do not pose any problem or risk?
  • How can we benefit from the experience and solutions found in the existing large scale systems to reduce costs?

While preparing the revised proposal, the Commission will continue to carefully listen to the opinions expressed by the European Parliament. 

Thank you for your attention

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