The EU’s European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) – which would pre-screen travelers entering the Schengen area who are citizens of countries with visa-free travel to the same, much like the United States does with its ESTA system today – has been on the drawing board since at least 2018. The EU has, however, postponed the implementation of ETIAS on a number of occasions in recent years.
Initially slated for introduction at the end of 2020, the system was first delayed until December 2022, then later postponed again until May 2023. In August this year, the European Commission quietly postponed the system once more, putting it off until November 2023.
The Commission has not indicated the reasons for the delay, nor announced the postponement at all.
This week, however, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) revealed that a new bureau, formed specifically to “ensure the system functions in accordance with fundamental rights,” has begun its work. The Fundamental Rights Guidance Board, according to a Frontex press release, “is to carry out regular evaluations and make recommendations to the ETIAS Screening Board regarding its work, in particular with regard to privacy, data protection, and non-discrimination.”
CBI industry observers will be particularly interested to see the commitment to “non-discrimination” adequately carried out because of concerns the EU might use the ETIAS system to screen for individuals whose citizenship in a visa-waiver country was obtained by citizenship by investment.
Such discrimination would not be unprecedented: The United States currently uses its ESTA system (on which ETIAS is modeled) to prevent the entry of Hungarians not born in Hungary because of concerns with fraudulently obtained citizenships by descent. See: US Drops Visa-Waivers for Hungarian Citizens Born Outside the Country, Cites Fraud Concerns
The Guidance Board, states Frontex, is composed of “representatives of the Frontex Fundamental Rights Officer, the Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights of Frontex, the European Data Protection Supervisor, the European Data Protection Board, and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.”
The ETIAS “Central Unit” has already been operational for almost two years and now employs more than 100 staff.