5.3.2014 | Von:
Mechthild Baumann


Angehörige der Frontex-Grenzschutzbehörde vor einem technologisierten Überwachungssytem in Nea Vyssa, GriechenlandMembers of Frontex bordercontrol at work in a state-of-the-art technological monitoring center in Nea Vyssa, Greece. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

In addition to the externalization (that is, the shifting beyond EU borders), the European border regime is also characterized by technologization. While today the majority of people crossing EU external borders are still personally checked by border guards, this task should be increasingly taken over by computer technology in the future. Falsified documents should be recognized without mistake and the time needed to check each person should be shortened.

Technology has always been used to control and, above all, monitor borders. At the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, CO2 measuring devices, document and baggage test equipment, and telephoto equipment were used at EU border crossing points, while thermal imaging devices and night vision devices were increasingly used for the monitoring of the "green borders".

With the use of biometric data, a new era in border management began. In 2004, the EU decided to save personal data, the photo and fingerprints of citizens of EU Member States on a small chip integrated in the passport (an "e-pass"). [1] The goal is to be able to carry out the controlling of entry and exit movements to and from the "EU territory" more quickly and securely.

In order to participate in automated border controls with this "e-pass", a person must have previously registered with the police. At the border checkpoint the passport is scanned, followed by the person’s iris. At entry these scans are compared with the data on the chip inside the passport. If both scans match and there are no travel restrictions in effect for the person in question, he or she may enter.

The EU is now planning to unify these national automatic border control systems Europe-wide, which would operate under the concept "Smart Borders". With this unification, the EU pursues two parallel goals:

Registered Traveler Programme (RTP)

One goal is to decrease waiting times at the external borders. To achieve this, non-EU citizens who often travel to the EU have the possibility of registering themselves biometrically in order to be able to cross the border more quickly. This plan is called the "Registered Traveler Programme" (RTP) and was suggested by the European Commission in February, 2013 [2], but as of the September 2013 deadline, had not yet been adopted by the Council or Parliament.

Entry Exit System (EES)

Secondly, the EU intends to make its outer borders more secure to prevent irregular migration by developing a system which will simultaneously reduce several forms of illegal migration. The so-called Entry Exit System (EES) [3] is to better monitor and, as far as possible, to prevent unlawful border crossings, meaning preventing those people crossing borders without entry documents or with falsified documents. [4] When applying for a visa, personal data as well as travel information are entered into a central information system to which all responsible authorities have access. Also recorded in the system is the visa’s expiration date (a visa is usually valid for three months), indicating when the person must leave EU territory.

This leads to two forms of illegal migration. Until now the majority of so-called "illegal" or "irregular" migration has been made up of people who stayed in the EU past the expiration date of their visas, termed "overstayers". After the expiration of their valid visas, their residence status changed from legal to illegal. The authorities have had difficulties in identifying these "overstayers", but this is supposed to function better under the new system. As soon as a person stays longer than he or she is permitted, the system sends a warning to the responsible immigration or police authority. How the authorities are to proceed has not yet been completely elaborated on.

Frontex will have access to the Entry Exit System (EES) to collect and analyze data on people recorded in the EES for statistical and scientific purposes. The operating costs for both systems (RTP and EES) have been calculated by the Commission to be between approximately 163 and 214 million euro annually (plus a onetime cost of between 206 and 214 million euro for its establishment [5]). In the meantime, concerns about the necessity, effectiveness and efficiency of such a comprehensive and expensive system have been raised in the European Parliament. [6]

This text is part of the policy brief on "Frontex and the EU Border Regime".


Regulation No. 2252/2004.
Europäische Kommission [European Commission] (2013a).
Europäische Kommission [European Commission] (2013b).
This plan was also proposed by the Commission in February, 2013, but not yet passed.
European Commission (2010a).
Europagruppe Grüne [European Affairs Group for the Greens] (2013).
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