The EU’s Post-Brexit Entry/Exit System Faces More Delays
New requirements to travel to Europe: The European Union’s plan to implement a new Entry/Exit System (EES) for non-EU travellers after Brexit has hit yet another snag. Originally set to launch in 2022, the EES has now been pushed back to late 2024 due to challenges meeting deadlines. For those of us who routinely travel between the UK and EU, this pattern of delays is becoming all too familiar.
What Exactly is the EES?
The EES is an automated system designed to register and monitor non-EU citizens as they enter and exit the Schengen Area. Travellers will have their biometric data like facial images and fingerprints collected at self-service kiosks when crossing external EU borders. The goal is to improve security and identify overstayers.
Here’s a quick rundown of how it will work:
- Applies when entering/exiting EU countries except Ireland and Cyprus
- Travel documents will be scanned at self-service kiosks
- Biometric data is collected and stored for 3 years
- System tracks date and place of entry/exit for each trip
Citizens of the EU, UK, and other visa-exempt travellers will all be subject to the new requirements.
Industry Calls for Preparation Time
While tightening up EU borders is seen as positive for security, many in the travel industry want to ensure the transition goes smoothly. Airports, airlines, and other groups have called for national authorities to invest in automation, hire and train sufficient staff, and launch public information campaigns. Essentially, they don’t want to see the chaotic scenes witnessed at some UK airports this summer repeated across Europe.
With the new delays, it seems their calls for adequate preparation may have been heard.
Will ETIAS Also Be Delayed?
The EES is closely linked to another upcoming EU travel scheme – the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). ETIAS requires visa-exempt visitors to obtain electronic travel authorization before entering the Schengen Area.
ETIAS was originally slated to launch in late 2023. However, it has now been pushed back to the first half of 2025. The two systems will likely be implemented in close succession.
What’s Causing the Holdups?
According to reports, the primary reason for the EES delays is contractors missing deadlines for installing necessary border automation hardware and software. Thousands of automated gates and kiosks must be operational at all air, land and sea entry points before the system goes live.
EU countries are also concerned they won’t have enough time to rigorously test EES before launch. France, in particular, is worried about the impact on traffic flows at ports like Dover.
How Will This Impact Future Travel?
While the EES aims to improve security, many fear it could also lead to lengthy queues and travel disruptions – at least initially. The European Commission has floated ideas like a phased implementation to minimize any chaos.
For British travellers to the continent, this could mean more time spent in lines at border control. In the worst case, we could see scenes reminiscent of the summer’s airport mayhem.
However, the repeated delays do provide extra time to ramp up resources and infrastructure. Here’s hoping a smooth rollout of the EES finally occurs when it takes effect in 2024!