Border Control Code
The details on rules and procedures to be followed at external borders were contained in a Common Manual, published in December 2002. However, like Schengen itself, the legal status of the manual was unclear. It was also something of a hybrid, being part a practical handbook for border guards and part an instrument creating legal rights and obligations. In 2004 the Commission issued a proposal to rewrite the manual to clarify the distinction between legal provisions and procedural rules and create a consolidated code on rules for checks at the border, with one part on external borders and one part on internal borders.
Schengen Information System (SIS)
The SIS computer database was set up in 1995 as a means of holding checkable information that would allow the abolition of internal borders. It originally contained information on criminals on the run, previous asylum applications, stolen cars and other stolen property. On 1 June 2005, the Commission published proposals to upgrade the system to SIS II - to incorporate the new member states and include new functions. The new system will contain biometric data and be used to store and disseminate information on extradition, third-country nationals refused entry to the EU and individuals subject to a European arrest warrant or under surveillance for criminal activity. Non-Schengen states, the UK and Ireland, will only have access for police and judicial co-operation matters. By a separate regulation, vehicle-licensing authorities will also use SIS II to track lost or stolen cars.
New member states
The ten 2004 accession states will be incorporated into the Schengen area and, by the June proposal, into SIS II, by 2007. New EU citizens will have a right to travel freely but there may still be checks at borders between old and new member states. A budget of €960 million for 2004-06 has been allocated to help new member states strengthen their border security and implement the SIS II system ready for 2007. They will be assisted by the External Borders Agency.
External Borders Agency
The Regulation establishing a European Agency for the Management of Operational Co-operation at the External Borders (External Borders Agency) was adopted in October 2004. It is to be a co-ordinating agency, providing technical and training aid to member states. It will have its base in Warsaw and commenced work on 1 May 2005.
By a 2004 Council regulation, all newly-issued EU passports must contain digital facial images by mid-2006 and biometric fingerprints by the end of 2007. The biometric data and personal details will be stored on the chip itself in the passport, in national databases and in the Schengen Information System (SIS II) (see above and our LinksDossier on biometrics).
Different systems of what are called ‘biometric identifiers’ exist. The principal elements of these are fingerprint data, facial scanning and iris recognition. The United States has set up a
programme, as a fast-track entry system for visa holders, which uses fingerprint scans.
There is concern that passports containing biometric data will not be secure. Chips available at present can be read by remote readers, i.e. without putting the passports through a machine and without the holder’s knowledge. In addition, it appears that if more than one chip is put in any document, the chips ‘fight’ with each other – rendering both inert.