EU unveils e-border scheme amid ‘Big Brother’ warnings

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Frequent travellers to the EU’s border-free Schengen area will be able to cross frontiers “in seconds” thanks to a special machine-readable card presented today (28 February) by the EU's Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström.

Malmström presented a “Smart Border Package”, consisting of a Registered Traveller Programme (RTP) and an Entry/Exit System (EES), which she said will simplify the life of frequent travelers within the Schengen area.

The legislative proposals needs approval from both the European Parliament and EU member states, with the new system expected to start operation in 2017 or 2018.

Green lawmakers in the European Parliament vowed to block the plan, saying it "would create a Big Brother 2.0 at Europe’s borders".

“All non-EU travellers would be effectively treated as suspected criminals, with their fingerprints to be collected not just every time they enter and exit the EU, but also when they cross identity controls by police within the EU," said German MEP Ska Keller, the Green's spokesperson on migration and civil liberties.

To facilitate the crossing of frequent travellers, automated border gates will be installed at all 1,800 crossing points in the Schengen area. Pre-screened travellers will be able to use this system on a voluntary basis, with an estimated 5 million per year expected to use the new programme.

Malmström explained that pre-registered frequent travellers will get “a token, in the form of machine-readable card”. They would use it with the automated gate, and if checks is successful, travelers could pass within seconds.

In addition, the EES system will record the time and place of entry and exit of third country nationals coming to the EU. It will calculate the length of the authorised short stay, replacing the current system, which Malmström called “quite outdated”, with border guards still stamping passports.

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