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UPDATE: EU postpones launch of EES border entry system once again

The EU has announced that its EES border system - which includes taking biometric data from non-EU visitors - will be delayed once again from its planned start date of May 2023.

UPDATE: EU postpones launch of EES border entry system once again
Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

Schengen countries are set to tighten up security at the external borders with the introduction of a new digital system (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens.

The new system, which will require non-EU travellers to register and have biometric data including fingerprints taken at the border, was due to come into force in May 2023 after already having been pushed back from 2022.

But this week it was announced – perhaps to no-one’s surprise – that the system will not be ready by May. Although a new date has not been set the EU now says it will be launched “by the end of 2023”.

According to the travel site TTGmedia.com which first revealed the delay, the decision was taken at an EU meeting in Tallinn last week.

It was agreed the May 2023 target “was considered no longer achievable due to delays from the contractors”.

Stakeholders, including airports and port authorities on the northern French coast, should continue to prepare for a target launch date “within the end of 2023”.

“In particular, border crossing points should be fully equipped for the use of the Entry/Exit System by the end of the year,” read a summary of the meeting.

A new more detailed timeline for the rollout is expected to be revealed in March.

The Local had previously reported in November how governments across Europe feared the new checks will cause long delays at borders – particularly at the UK-France border, where the boss of the port of Dover predicted “tailbacks throughout Kent”. 

What is the new EES system?

This doesn’t change anything in terms of the visas or documents required for travel, or the rights of travellers, but it does change how the EU’s and Schengen area’s external borders are policed.

It’s essentially a security upgrade, replacing the current system that relies on border guards with stamps with an electronic swipe in/swipe out system that will register more details such as immigration status.

It is for the EU’s external borders, so doesn’t apply if you are travelling between France and Germany for example, but would apply if you enter any EU or Schengen zone country from a non-EU country eg crossing from the UK to France via Channel Tunnel or flying into Germany from the US.

It will apply when entering all EU member states, apart from Cyprus and Ireland, as well as four non-EU countries in the Schengen Area: Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Travellers will need to scan their passports or other travel document at a self-service kiosk each time they cross an EU external border. It will not apply to foreign residents of EU countries or those with long stay visas.

When non-EU travellers first enter the Schengen/EU area the system will register their name, biometric data, and the date and place of entry and exit. Facial scans and fingerprint data will be retained for three years after initial registration.

The system will digitally track the number of days non-EU citizens spend in the union to ensure people do not overstay the permitted 90 days in any 180-day period in the Schengen area.

Also due to come into effect in 2023 is ETIAS – this will require tourists to register in advance for a visa and pay €7. This is due to launch in November 2023, and the EU has so far not announced any change to this date.

Member comments

  1. I’m concerned about this as I have found my fingerprints are difficult to recognize. Don’t know why, but I’ve had to be “re-fingerprinted” at the Questura a couple of times. When getting my FBI report in the USA, my fingerprinting exercise took hours.

    This was due to the small, portable readers being unable to confirm my prints time after time after time after time. Expert staff had to be called in and I stood a good chance of having to forego any business associated with fingerprinting.

    This will be – if the equipment isn’t top-notch and the operators skilled – a nightmare. I’m guessing I’m not the only person in the world with prints that are difficult to read. Hope they allow for odd circumstances similar to mine for identifying entrants into the EU.

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TRAVEL NEWS

New rail service planned through Norway, Sweden and Denmark to Hamburg

Plans for a new rail service running from Oslo and stopping in Gothenburg, Malmö and Copenhagen before arriving in Hamburg are in the works, Swedish state-owned rail operator SJ has said.

New rail service planned through Norway, Sweden and Denmark to Hamburg

Sweden’s state-owned SJ, along with Denmark’s DSB and DB of Germany, plans to offer a new international train line which runs between the Norwegian capital Oslo and Hamburg in northern Germany. 

The planned route would run daily, departing from Oslo at 8am before making stops in Gothenburg, Malmö and Copenhagen and arriving in Hamburg at 7pm. A service departing Hamburg and terminating in Gothenburg is also planned.

The 11 hour service would be quicker than the equivalent journey using either a car and ferry connection or existing train services. 

The planned service will enter into operation in 2027. Petter Essén, head of SJ’s vehicle and traffic programme, said the route made sense as it would connect a long stretch which doesn’t have continuous train traffic. 

“Today, there is a great deal of flying between Copenhagen and Oslo and between Oslo and Gothenburg, routes that would be fine by train,” Essén told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter

Currently, the only direct trains from the Norwegian capital to other countries are services to Gothenburg and Stockholm. 

The European Commission has selected the potential line as one of ten pilot projects that will receive support. This does not mean it will receive direct funding from the EU, but it will get backing on regulations and logistics, Essén explained.

“You can get help with various regulations and the process of getting all vehicles approved in all countries,” he said.

Generally, many Swedish and Norwegian trains can only operate within Sweden and Norway, while the majority of Danish and German trains are not cleared to run in Sweden in Norway. 

The Snälltåget line between Stockholm and Berlin has also been selected to receive support from the European Commission. 

SJ also announced plans to increase the number of trains between Gothenburg and Malmö to ten per day and offer the Gothenburg-Copenhagen service all year round. It said that these plans could come to fruition by 2026 or 2027. 

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