All EU citizens and third country nationals entering or leaving the EU will be checked against databases, e.g. of lost and stolen documents, under a draft law informally agreed by MEPs and EU ministers on Monday.
These checks, designed to improve security inside the EU, would be mandatory for everyone. A key goal for Parliament’s negotiators was also to make it possible to ease the new rules at airports, should they slow the flow of traffic there too much.
Parliament’s rapporteur Monica Macovei (ECR, RO) said: “Terrorism is hate without limits, and destroying human life is at the core of hate. Every person has a right to life and every democracy has the right to its values. We want security in a changing world.”
”Crises such as the terrorist threat require a rapid and coordinated crisis response. Securing the external borders of the EU can stop the movement of terrorists, weapons and substances of mass destruction. We must do our outmost”, she added.
The agreement still needs to be formally endorsed by the full Parliament and the Council.
MEPs and ministers struck a compromise on using EU-wide databases as much as possible when doing border checks, in particular the Schengen Information System, the Interpol database on stolen or lost travel documents and other European databases.
Nevertheless, the agreement still allows member states to consult national information systems and Interpol´s other databases if they wish.
Relaxing checks at airports
The EU Commission proposal says that if systematic checks cause too lengthy border delays, sample checks could be introduced at EU land and sea borders instead.
MEPs managed to include airports too, by granting national authorities a transitional period of up to six months to adjust their air border infrastructure, plus, if necessary, an additional 18 months under exceptional circumstances. Thereafter, the checks should be systematic.
According to the agreed text, member states wishing to ease airport checks would have to demonstrate that this would not lead to risks for internal security, public policy, international relations or public health.
The informal deal will be put to a confirmation vote in the Civil Liberties Committee on a date to be decided later. If approved in committee, the deal will be put to a vote by Parliament as a whole and the Council of Ministers. All dates for these votes will also be decided later.
The draft regulation is a response to the rise in terrorist threats in Europe, such as the attacks in Paris, Copenhagen and Brussels in recent years. It also aims to combat terrorist “foreign fighters”, many of whom are EU citizens, irregular migration and human trafficking.
This initiative to amend the Schengen Borders Code (SBC) was presented by the European Commission in December 2015. The amendment will also align member states’ existing obligations to do systematic exit checks on third country nationals, to ensure that they do not present a threat to public policy and internal security.