Systematic EU border checks to intercept Syrian fighters

Friday, 17 February 2017 13:02
European citizens, and those from third countries, will be on a par in being subject to systematic security checks when entering or leaving the European Union. European citizens, and those from third countries, will be on a par in being subject to systematic security checks when entering or leaving the European Union. © Belga
From now on, European citizens, and those from third countries, will be on a par in being subject to systematic security checks when entering or leaving the European Union.
This measure was approved by the European Parliament in Strasbourg yesterday (Thursday). These checks should assist in the interception of Syrian fighters attempting to return to Europe.

Following a modification to the Schengen Borders Code, approved by 469 in favour (to 120 against), member states should now check the identity of third country nationals, but also EU citizens held within relevant databases.

These include the Schengen Information System or the database for lost or stolen travel documents. This applies as much to those leaving as those entering the EU.

The MEP, Helga Stevens (of the New Flemish Alliance) commented, “This is an extremely significant addition as part of screening Syrian fighters trying to return to Europe.”

She went on, “From now on, we will know more quickly if travellers wishing to come into Europe are wanted by police or intelligence services. We will also be able to ascertain whether their passport is fake or stolen.”

The modification will take effect almost immediately. However, land and sea border control authorities can revert to sample checks if the measure leads to waiting times being too high.

There is a two-year transition period anticipated for airports, after which all relevant infrastructures should have been put in place. Thereafter, these checks should become systematic unless a given state is able to demonstrate that relaxing the measure does not pose a security risk.

Ivo Belet (of the Flemish Christian Democrats) considered, “A reasonable assessment of threat levels by member states should keep passenger inconvenience to a minimum.”

He went on, “Although it may, all the same, be necessary to wait five minutes longer than normal, this is chiefly in passenger interests. Moreover, the limited nuisance is far outweighed by the major security benefits.”

The deputy also stresses the importance of this measure to guarantee the sustainability of open EU internal borders.

Christopher Vincent
The Brussels Times
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