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  • Thierry Spanjaard

EES to make Europe better

The European Union has been a project in development for its all existence. While general principles are easy to agree upon, the devil is in the implementation details. Member states agree that the rationale behind the existence of the Schengen area is that an integrated immigration and border control process is to be set up at the external borders of the area.

The European Commission defines the Entry/Exit System (EES), which is to be implemented in February 2022, as “an automated IT system for registering travelers from third-countries, both short-stay visa holders and visa exempt travelers, each time they cross an EU external border. The system will register the person's name, type of the travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and captured facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit, in full respect of fundamental rights and data protection.”

Completing the Schengen Information System (SIS), the Visa Information System (VIS) and European Asylum Dactyloscopy Database (Eurodac), the EES is the implementation of the EU common set of policies defining the conditions for accessing the Schengen area, which includes 26 countries, not overlapping exactly with the EU member states. The system aims at facilitating travels for pre-authorized or regular travelers while identifying and blocking those who do not comply with EU rules or who have overstayed their visa.

The EES will make use of biometric data for automated checks and controls. It will also create a central register of cross-border movements, as well as a keep track of refusals of entry. Data stored in the register of cross-border movements will include name, passport number, fingerprints and photos of both those allowed and those rejected for entry in the Schengen area; these data will be kept for five years. This register will replace the old way of marking entries by stampingpassports, which has been proved to be inefficient, inaccurate, falsifiable and costly. Access to register of cross-border movements will be granted to border authorities and Europol, but Third Country Nationals should also be able to check their own remaining authorized length of stay, and airlines need to be able to check in advance if a passenger will be granted access upon arrival in the Schengen area.

Biometrics will be at the core of the EES: as records include four fingerprints and each person’s face, both methods will be available to grant access to a given person. The implementation of the EES will open way to border control automation, not only in airports but also in land and sea border crossings. A wide-scale deployment of self-service kiosks and eGates will allow border guards to focus on more added-value activities. Also, developing preprocessing of Advanced Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) delivered by the airlines will help border guards to make better informed decisions.

The EES is estimated to cost EUR 480 million and it will rely on a shared biometric matching system (sBMS) to handle biometrics from 400 million third-country nationals. Major players in our industry, such as Idemia, Thales, Veridos, Vision-Box, and others are ready to deliver all parts of the EES: eGates, biometric sensors and matching routines, all automated border control systems, self-service kiosks, fixed and mobile terminals, etc. As all external borders of the Schengen area are to be equipped, there is a need for a wide variety of solutions: a large international airport requires different solutions from a village on a land border, dealing with cars and trucks is different in terms of passenger flow from a border crossing at an airport, a train station or a sea passenger terminal. There are still many opportunities for smaller players to deliver to both the EU and member states governments all the necessary parts of the puzzle to implement such a large-scale and complex system and, at the end of the day, to make the EU a better and safer place for all.

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