Everyone, including EU nationals, will have their IDs checked against police databases under new draft rules every time they enter or exit the EU.
Backed by MEP negotiators and their EU state counterparts on Monday (5 December), the move is the latest in a series of security measures aimed at catching people who fought alongside the Islamic State militant group.
But the plan, which amends the Schengen Borders Code, is also designed to provide the police much greater insight into people suspected of other crimes.
People’s IDs will be crossed checked against an EU-level police and border database, the so-called Schengen Information System (SIS), which is riddled with management problems.
The issues are so bad that the European commission plans on unveiling new rules before the end of year to make SIS more effective.
The database currently only allows name and date of birth search queries, providing little protection against the use of fake documents. The EU commission wants to plug the gap by allowing authorities to search the database using biometric information, like fingerprints.
Once the biometric search is developed, the system will further link up to the EU police agency, Europol, and is likely to include a new set of alerts on “wanted unknown persons”, where police have evidence of criminal activity but are unable to identify the person behind the offence.
Every EU national will be subject to the digital scrutiny.
The new rules are set to launch next year but still need to be formally adopted by the EU institutions. No date has been announced.
Millions of people cross into the EU’s passport free Schengen area every week. Last year, authorities registered over 200 million.
Of those, 5,000 EU nationals are thought to have left to fight with militants in either Iraq or Syria.
Half of these are unaccounted for – either missing or dead. The others have returned to Europe, either to resume normal lives or face criminal penalties.
Concerns are mounting that defeated militants in the campaign in Iraq may return to mount attacks in the EU. An Iraqi-led offensive against the Islamic State, with US air and ground support, kicked off in early October.
But Julian King, the EU commissioner for security, told reporters in mid-November not to exaggerate the threat.
“I know there has been some concern and speculation in light of the evolution on the ground in Iraq and in Syria,” he said.
“There has been some speculation that we might face an influx of returning foreign fighters, I think that speculation is sometimes exaggerated. I want to be clear, it is not a new threat.”