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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

What to expect from strike action in France during the February school holidays

Several French unions have filed strike notices for February, with some aiming to target to busy February holiday period - here's what you can expect.

What to expect from strike action in France during the February school holidays

France is in the grip of a major confrontation between unions and the government over plans to reform the pension system.

So far, the main actions have been concentrated on one-day strikes that are supported by all eight of the union federations, however an increasing number of unions are filing notices for renewable or unlimited strikes, with some targeting the February holidays.

The French minister of tourism, Olivia Gregoire, called on unions to respect the “sacred period” of school holidays (which in France run from February 4th to March 6th, depending on which zone you are in).

Meanwhile, Philippe Martinez, the head of the hardline CGT union, told RTL that if the government remains stubborn then “there is a possibility of days of action during the school vacations”.

As a result, it is likely that further notices will be filed.  The Local will update this story with the latest – but here’s what we know so far.

January actions

Tuesday, January 31st – this is the next one-day mass strike, which will likely see severe disruption on many services, particularly public transport – full details here.

February actions

Trains – two rail unions – the hardline Sud-Rail and CGT-Cheminots – have filed a renewable strike notice for “mid-February” in addition to a two-day strike which is to take place on Tuesday, February 7th, and Wednesday, and 8th. 

READ MORE: Calendar: The French pension strike dates to remember

Ski resorts – two of the largest unions representing French ski lift operators and seasonal workers, FO (Force ouvrière) and the CGT, have filed “unlimited” strike notices starting on January 31st – the same day that unions across other sectors have called for another ‘mass strike’.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the strike will continue throughout February, but unions say they want to put pressure on the government to discuss both pensions and changes to benefits for seasonal workers, which particularly affect ski industry employees.

The CGT union in particular has threatened further actions during the Ski World Championships, held in Courchevel from February 6th to February 19th. Strikes in ski resorts usually primarily affect the operation of ski lifts. You can read more here.

Oil refinery workers – refinery workers have threatened to strike for a period of 72 hours beginning on February 6th. 

The national union coordinator for French oil giant, TotalEnergies, Eric Sellini, told AFP that these actions would result in “lower throughput” and “the stoppage of shipments.”

The most concrete effect of this is likely to be shortages of petrol and diesel at some filling stations if the blockades are successful in stopping supplies leaving the refineries.

Power cuts – the hardline CGT have also threatened more “direct action” with employees of the State electricity sector threatening to cut the power to certain towns. This isn’t a scheduled action (or indeed a legal one, the government has promised to prosecute workers who do this) but short targeted power cuts could continue into February.

UK border – finally, if you are travelling to or from the UK, be aware that a UK Border Force strike is planned for February 1st and 2nd, which is likely to increase waiting times at the border.

We will update this story as more details are released, and you can also find all the latest in our strike section HERE.

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