World Security Report2016-09-22 07:24:40

State of the Union 2016: Commission Targets Stronger External Borders

"Tolerance cannot come at the price of our security. We need to know who is crossing our borders. We will defend our borders with the new European Border and Coast Guard. We will defend our borders with strict controls on everyone crossing them." - President Juncker, State of the Union 2016

On the occasion of President Juncker's 2016 State of the Union address, the Commission today set out how the European Union can enhance security in Europe by improving the exchange of information in the fight against terrorism and strengthening external borders. The measures proposed include the accelerated operational delivery of the European Border and Coast Guard, quick adoption and implementation of an EU Entry-Exit System and upcoming proposals to create a European Travel Information and Authorisation System. Additionally, as part of the Commission's efforts to pave the way towards a genuine and effective Security Union, the Communication also proposes to take further actions to improve the security of travel documents to prevent document fraud and to strengthen Europol's European Counter-Terrorism Centre.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "Security is one of the major concerns of Europe's citizens. Today the Commission is proposing practical measures to upgrade information exchange - essential to fighting terrorism - and to secure our Union's external borders and strengthen control over who enters and leaves the EU. These measures will require closer coordination and cooperation within the EU and between Member States. There's no escaping the fact that in this mobile world only truly closer cooperation will make us more secure."

Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: "By strengthening our external borders we will be better prepared for facing severe migratory challenges. Enhancing the exchange of information will enable us to fight terrorism more effectively. To ensure Europe's security, we need both strong borders and smart intelligence. Measures like the European Border and Coast Guard, the Entry-Exit System and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System will help secure Europe's borders, while strengthening Europol's role in the effective sharing of information and combatting document fraud are concrete steps towards establishing an effective Security Union."

The Communication adopted today sets out a number of practical and operational measures to accelerate the implementation of the European Agenda on Migration and the European Agenda on Security and pave the way towards a genuine and effective Security Union:

• European Border and Coast Guard: Built on Frontex, with the newly created ability to draw on a reserve pool of people and equipment, the new Agency will ensure stronger shared management of the EU's external borders. It will support Member States by identifying and, where necessary, intervening to address weaknesses before they become serious problems. The Commission, Frontex and Member States have already undertaken preparatory work, and this will be accelerated further to ensure that the new Agency becomes operational as a matter of urgency. Steps to be taken by the Commission include work on agreements with third countries and adopting the budgetary proposals necessary to allow the Agency to swiftly recruit additional staff. The Commission calls on Member States to ensure that national contributions to the reserve pool of border guards and equipment are ready for immediate use and to fill current shortfalls in response to calls for experts for Frontex operations in Greece, Italy and Bulgaria.

• EU Entry-Exit System (EES): Proposed by the Commission on 6 April 2016 together with a supporting amendment to the Schengen Borders Code, the proposed EU Entry/Exit System (EES) will improve the management of the external borders and reduce irregular migration into the EU (by tackling visa overstaying), while also contributing to the fight against terrorism and serious crime and ensuring a high level of internal security. The system will collect data including identity, travel documents and biometrics as well as registering entry and exit records at the point of crossing. It will apply to all non-EU citizens who are admitted for a short stay in the Schengen area (maximum 90 days in any 180 day period). Negotiations with the co-legislators on the two proposals are currently ongoing, and the Commission calls for final adoption of the proposals by the end of 2016 with a view to the System becoming operational in early 2020 after three years of development.

• The idea of establishing a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) with similar objectives to the well-known US 'ESTA' system was launched by the Commission in April. Creation of such a system provides an additional layer of control over visa-exempt travellers. ETIAS would determine the eligibility of all visa-exempt third country nationals to travel to the Schengen Area, and whether such travel poses a security or migration risk. Information on travellers would be gathered prior to their trip. The Commission has launched a feasibility study on ETIAS, with results due in October 2016, and based on the results of the study as well as consultations, the Commission intends to present a legislative proposal by November 2016 for the establishment of ETIAS.

• Reinforcing Europol: As the EU's core tool to enhance cooperation between national security authorities, Europol has taken some major steps forward, with the recent creation of the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) as well as the European Migrant Smuggling Centre and the European Cybercrime Centre. The Commission will work with Europol to further strengthen the agency's counter-terrorism capabilities, but also its work against migrant smuggling and cybercrime, for example through providing the additional resources needed to meet the needs and expectations placed on it. Improving Europol's access to key databases is also important. In the same vein, the Commission encourages Member States to facilitate some form of information exchange hub to create a platform where authorities obtaining information related to terrorism or other serious cross border security threats would share it with law enforcement authorities.

• Secure travel documents are crucial for establishing the identity of a person. Better management of free movement, migration and mobility relies on robust systems to prevent abuses and threats to internal security caused by the ease with which some documents can be forged. The Commission is pursuing new ways to enhance electronic document security and identity document management. By December 2016, the Commission will adopt an Action Plan on document security to make residence cards, identity documents and Emergency Travel Documents (ETD) more secure.

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