European Union authorities have once again delayed the implementation of the bloc’s biometric Entry/Exit System (“EES”).
The project is being overseen by the European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA). The main idea is to establish a biometrically-secured border around the European Union’s Schengen zone, in which residents are permitted relatively unrestricted travel between member states. To that end, various EU countries have been working to deploy new border control systems that would enable the collection of travelers’ biometrics upon arrival.
Records from an EU-LISA meeting last week indicate that the project managers concluded that the system’s originally planned implementation date of May 2023 is “no longer achievable”. A new, official deadline does not yet appear to have been set, though a meeting summer noted that border checkpoints “should be fully equipped for the use of the Entry/Exit System by the end of the year.”
It’s the latest in a line of delays. The initial deadline for the implementation of EES had been May of 2022, but in late 2021 authorities moved to push that back to September, before another delay kicked it to May of this year.
The latest decision to push back the deadline blames contractor delays, though it isn’t clear which contractors are responsible for the backup. A number of firms are involved, including major security giants with strong expertise in biometric tech. Thales, for example, won an EES contract from the Spanish Ministry of Interior last year; and IDEMIA has won contracts from government authorities in Denmark, Iceland, and Lithuania, as well as its home country of France.
In any case, the latest delay has been warmly welcomed by a number of air travel stakeholders including the European region of Airports Council International (ACI), Airlines for Europe (A4E), the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). “The EES will be a game changer for how the EU’s borders are managed,” the organizations said in a joint statement. “There are, however, a number of issues which must be resolved to ensure a smooth roll out and operation of the new system so that air passengers do not face disruptions.”
January 24, 2023 – by Alex Perala