October 2014

LIBE Committee meeting 16.10.2014    Draft Agenda

The LIBE Committee met this morning for a joint debate on the ‘smart borders’ package to discuss three legislative proposals on:

  1. The amendement of the Schengen Borders Code.   2013/0060(COD)       COM(2013)0096 – C7-0062/2013.  Technical Study on Smart Borders – Executive Summary
  2. The proposal of a Registered Traveller Programme (RTP) 2013/0059(COD)       COM(2013)0097 – C7-0064/2013
  3. The proposal for an Entry/Exit System (EES) to register the entry and exit data of third country nationals crossing the EU Member States’ external borders 2013/0057(COD)       COM(2013)0095 – C7-0067/2013

The joint debate highlighted some of the chief concerns of LIBE members most notably regarding the cost of implementation and of carrying out a smart borders pilot test, and the controversial matter of data protection, in particular the access of personal data by external bodies and law enforcement agencies.  This ‘controversial’ debate, introduced by Committee Chair Mr Claude Moraes saw strong participation from numerous LIBE MEPs which is summarised below:

Mr. Claude Moraes (Chair: S&D): This is a controversial proposal, packages will require more attention than others. Technical Study on Smart Borders finished by 2014. Pilot project finished 2015.

Opening statement Mrs Belinda Pyke (European Commission): Belinda Pyke is the European Commission Director for Migration and Borders. She took up the post in the Directorate-General for Home Affairs in April 2011. She was the Director for Equality between 2007 and March 2011, and has held a broad range of posts since joining the European Commission in 1986.

Smart Borders (SB) 

I know that the co-legislation has raised worries about technical, operational and cost aspects of SB. Questions raised: impact on process of border control, extent to which national systems could be reused. Possibility for law enforcement authorities to access system. Token, data retention period, biometric identifiers.

SB Pilot: 2015 EU-LISA, scope of study agreed 2014. Worked with external contractors on study.  Commission takes full responsibility of report. Summary of 2014 Technical Study on SB:

Main areas of study – 1. Statistics 2. Biometrics 3. Border control processes 4. Data 5. Architecture 6. Costs (not present in report).  Chapter on costs will be published 27 October latest not published yet. Costs remain within Mutliannual Financial Framework (MMF) envelop of 791 million and there could be considerable savings depending on options. Do not know at present how many people crossing borders each year.

Statistics: 600 million crossings a year 1/3 TCN, expect this to grow by 50% in 10 years. Border crossings of around 300 million, number of border crossings not number of people.

Architecture: Study suggests better to build one single system, avoid duplication of travellers personal data, EES & RTP should have possibility to interact with VIS and SIS II. VIS does not record, just verifies validity of VISA. Middle way option is the best one. Also looking at possibility of reusing national EES. Number of MS currently have national EES, developed primarily for law enforcement and on Eastern land border of EU. Study suggests that by having national unique interface this would allow integration of system by MS that have them and those that don’t.

Biometrics: proposal in 2013 we proposed finger prints (FP) as sole biometric identifier. Chose this as it was agreed by co-legislator in other legislation (VIS etc). Verification 1 FP is enough but if have more it will be more efficient. Data retention: for RTP 5 years. Longer retention period for EES.

Need to discover whether retention should be longer for EES. As passports will not be stamped anymore, should be a way of providing travellers with info to inform them how long they can stay in the Schengen area. Minimise data for EE registration. Maximising use of VIS and SIS II. Max. use of electronic passports. Analysing whether or not to include token: introduction of token is not necessary, however different circumstances at land crossings (land, seas, land borders) dealing with different types of borders.

Conclusion: study provides an overview of 5 scenarios: 3 for EES and 2 for RTP. Scope of pilot phase should be discussed by EP and Council, by 2015 Commission will present outcome of project.

European Parliament’s LIBE Committee:

Co-rapporteurs rapporteurs: Tanja Fajon (S&D) and Agustin Diaz de Mera Garcia Consuegra (EPP)

Fajon : raises issue of drawbacks regarding retention period. Costs are still missing important chapter: how will you present costs on basis of all scenarios on table or on basis of pilot project? Can the objective on proposals of SB really be achieved (safety, efficiency, costs) would the Commission withdraw completely or modify proposals? Data protection: Will this regime be used for 2 systems, will there be sufficient guarantee in case of dispute? How to ensure we don’t go too far in terms of safety? Which data are you speaking about?

Consuegra: need 18 days to get relevant access to documentation, message from Commission. Critical towards European Commission’s study: Technical study 443 pages received only 48h before and only in English language.  Timetable presented to us unrealistic (cost factor too). EP will take as much time as possible in order to study all details.  EP has never agreed on any of the proposals that are on the table. The objectives have not been defined. Original proposals say objective is border control from statistic point of view, but now from reading the study we see a new focus, access for law enforcement and external bodies to system. If we give access to security forces, retention period would move from 190 days to 5 years, same for FP it can vary between 1 and 10 years. Is there a concrete proposals on that? I have my doubts. We should learn from past experiences and develop an interoperable and interchangeable systems to avoid blockages and avoid them remaining in the hands of a few there are still 28 of us. We’ve been told fund for possible launch of these projects, I say there should be no pilot project launched without the involvement of this chamber. Tanja and Agustin want to submit a proposal to the Commission that is informative in nature. We could have hearing involving national parliaments and EC, entitled ‘Smart Borders European challenges’…next steps …

Other committee members:

Carlos Coelho (EPP): Will get information on the cost shortly, what does shortly mean? Something I don’t understand: following preliminary study EC will ask EU-Lisa to start pilot project, when EP approved EU-LISA mandate and Regulation (EU) No 1077/2011, did so with assurance that EP will approve it’s operations. A3 and A9 exceptions agency can carry out pilot schemes in accordance with A49 in coordination with financial regulation; it stipulates that schemes provided relevant information concerning budgets. Therefore I’d like to ask if this procedure respect European law?

Ana Gomes (S&D): The implications for the operation of a project in this framework, proliferating golden Visa system. We may have smart borders for the small people, very smart borders for immigrants and then dumb borders for rich people. How can we assure that this will not be the case?

Vicky Maeijer (Non-attached member): I saw a letter from Dutch gov earlier this year, both said that smart borders initiative would mean more time at borders and increase admin burdens. What if travellers has a stamp doesn’t turn out to be a good one. What are the financial consequences for the MS?

Cecilia Wikstrom (ALDE): What is the objective of these instruments, combat lines at airport, fight overstayers or increase simplicity of people visiting EU? No one has any answer to this. Proportionality of proposal? I do not agree with taking it any further until a data protection package is adopted. Concerns: how to integrate with VIS and SIS II, study actually also creates more question marks e.g. costs. Everyone fears what happened to SIS could repeat itself. So many things that need to be corrected as own study already shows. What is main objective?

: I think that it is a good thing, moves emphasis away from country itself to travellers, I think this is a good thing, bare in mind not doing anything could also potentially be more expensive, more border guards for example.

Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE): Droits fondamentaux, proportionnalité et protection des données. La question de cout; sauvetage en mer. Les Etats-Unis ont testé un système similaire, ont trouvé des problèmes, cher etc.

Ska Keller (Greens): Careful investing time and money. On study indeed have been asking EP to contribute with questions, but some of our questions haven’t been answered i.e. non technological solution has not been answered. Lots of issues of EP not taken into account. Are you going to propose to have law enforcement access now?

Zdechovsky (EPP): This could help solve the problem of foreign fighters. Very difficult to estimate how many people from Europe are fighting.

Council of the European Union representative: Real cooperation from EP and Council. Can’t give you any real conclusions from study released yesterday afternoon. Frontier WG study will be produced. We do want to keep rapporteurs fully aware of what is going on in the Council. We need a ‘Common approach’.

Belinda Pyke response: Costs: need to have a holistic view. Pilot: test phase, my view of EU-LISA regulation is that ‘budget’ language we’d have comparatory action. We haven’t tried to do this as a way of denying EP a role, money comes from annual work program for borders, pilot is assessing the impact of let’s say 10 FP or fewer and how that combines with FI. Ska Keller asked why looking at law enforcement access, Commission position not changed, as we’ve already proposed that 2 years after system comes into operation that we should exam this issue afterwards. Gomez (golden visas) system will control movement. Issue of foreign fighters, there are TCN fighters. EU nationals will not be recorded in EES. SBC if used correctly gives MS all tools they need to ensure foreign fighters are tracked. We try to convince MS that we can used SBC to track foreign fighters and EU nationals.

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