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August 15, 2023

EES Launch Date Remains Unknown, Member States Claim National Implementation

The European Union has been trying hard in recent years to strengthen its external borders and thus become a safer and more secure area for both its citizens and visitors.

A series of programs and schemes that aim to control who enters and leaves the 27 Member States and Schengen-associated countries have been approved and developed since 2015, when the Union was hit by several terror attacks and a record number of migrants illegally crossing its borders, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

Amongst others, the Entry/Exit System (EES) and the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) were approved in 2017 and 2016, respectively. At the time, the EU pledged to launch both systems by 2021.

However, factors of different natures, including the Coronavirus pandemic, have delayed the launch of both systems a few times in a row, with the EU now being unable to give an exact date, when either of them will become effective.

Their implementation is deeply linked, as without the launch of the EES, the EU cannot put the ETIAS system into operation.

At the moment, no date has been communicated for a possible entry in operation of EES,” the agency in charge for the operational management of the EES and other large-scale IT systems, eu-LISA, has told SchengenVisaInfo.com in an exchange of emails.

eu-LISA is currently working on a revised planning approach for the implementation of the EES and the overall interoperability architecture, taking into account all possible foreseeable impacts,” the agency also said, unable to give an approximate date when such a thing could possibly happen.

The Entry/Exit System is a new security system for travellers created by the EU in a bid of its authorities to keep track of who enters and who leaves the Member States. The system will collect and check biometric data, including fingerprints and facial images, of those entering and leaving the EU through new infrastructure that shall be implemented by the Member Countries at their external borders, including here airports and land borders.

EES Delay Blamed on Third-Parties, EU Says They’ll Face Consequences

The Entry/Exit System was expected to become effective on May this year, but the agency has postponed it during a meeting held on January 12 in Tallinn, Estonia, between the eu-LISA’s Management Board.

For EES, the planned Entry into Operation of May 2023 is considered no longer achievable due to delays from the contractors,” the agency had said at the time in a press release issued following the meeting.

A target date before the end of 2023 had been set by the Management Board in this meeting, which invited all stakeholders to continue working in order to be prepared to meet the same, urging the Member States to fully equip border crossing points for the use of the Entry/Exit System by the end of the year.

The delay of the EES implementation has pushed the EU to postpone the implementation of the ETIAS system too, which was supposed to become effective in November 2023.

The current expected date for ETIAS to be fully operational is 2024. The entry into operation of ETIAS can only take place five to six months after the entry into operation of the EES,” the Commission’s Spokesperson for Home Affairs, Migration and Internal Security, Anitta Hipper, has told SchengenVisaInfo.com.

Further, she has pointed out that the EU is already working to address the concerns, so that those responsible for the delays face penalties.

eu-LISA, which manages the contract, has already activated relevant penalties and the Commission has repeatedly met with the Consortia to address the concerns,” she said.

While the date of the EES implementation remains unknown, in a meeting of the Management Board, in mid-June, the eu-LISA has revealed that the EES revised roadmap will be the main subject of the next meeting, scheduled to be held in September, in Strasbourg, France.

EU Countries Claim EES Preparations in Their Territory Are “in Line” With Other Member States

While third parties are being blamed for the delays in the implementation of the EES, the Member States, aside from Lithuania, are still not completely ready with the preparations.

Contacted by SchengenVisaInfo.com, the authorities responsible in the Member States for the observation and/or implementation of the EES that responded, claim that they are “in line with the other Member States.”

The competent Belgian authorities are preparing for the EES in many different areas. This is similar to the preparations of other member states and in function of the envisaged common time schedule and evolutions on central EU-level,” Belgium’s General Directorate Immigration Office – Border Control of the Ministry of Interior has said.

The Representative of Slovene Police for Public Relations, Maja Ciperle Adlešič, has also noted that the implementation of EES in Slovenia is in line with the state of implementation of EES in other EU countries and the EU central system.

For now, the date of the final implementation of EES in Slovenia is not known as it depends on the development of the central EU system,” she said.

Similarly, the Estonian authorities also claim that “Estonia is on track with the necessary developments for the implementation of the EES,”

Alike, many of the Member States haven’t been able to give a more precise date when they might be done with the preparations. However, the Communication Office of the Spanish Ministry of the Interior claims that the country intends to deploy all equipment at the beginning of 2024 the latest.

Spain’s plan is for the system to be completed and all equipment deployed between the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024,” the Office said in their response.

Its neighbour, Portugal, also claims to be in line with the other Member States, in the process of integrating national systems with the EES System, yet pointing out that it is still in the process of a European public tender for securing the needed equipment.

With regard to the border equipment necessary for the collection of biometrics from citizens of Third States, the acquisition is currently in a European public tender,” the press unit of the Portuguese Immigration and Border Service has said.

In Slovakia, the authorities say that necessary measures for implementation of the EES in technical (hardware, software), organisational and administrative area are being taken.

After setting an indicative date for the entry into operation of the EES at EU level, the Slovak Republic also intends to take appropriate measures to inform public and carriers about their obligations, rights, etc., in due time,” the country’s Department of Communication of the Department of Communication and Prevention has said, further pointing out that three projects form the EU financial instrument – ISF Borders, are being implemented in the country regarding the EES preparations.

Romania, a non-Schengen EU member is doing its share in the implementation of the system. The country has already started the installation of border control equipment at border crossing points last year, which are ready to be tested.

“…all competent authorities are ready to run the official tests with the central system, but this activity depends on developments at eu-LISA level,” the country’s Information and Public Relations Center within the General Inspectorate of the Border Police has informed.

The Dutch government, on the other hand, had announced in January this year the start of the preparations for the changes that were supposed to happen at the external EU borders in May 2023. It is unknown how far the country has progressed in this regard, since then.

Lithuania Remains the Sole EU Country That Has Completed EES Preparations

Lithuania is the sole EU country that has announced that it has completed all preparations needed for the EU’s new Entry/Exit System. Its authorities have revealed as early as in February this year that the EES infrastructure is ready at all international airports in the country.

Revealing the work done so far on the EES at the Lithuanian airports, the Director of Safety and Security Department of Lithuanian Airports, Vidas Kšanas, had highlighted at the time that the airports have been made more convenient for passengers to pass border checks, by setting up self-service terminals and information screens.

Once the screening starts, third-country citizens will not only receive detailed information on the procedures to be followed but will also have the opportunity to perform most of the services completely independently in the self-service terminals,” Director Kšanas said.

He also pointed out that the Lithuanian authorities have carefully decided on the new areas where additional checks will take place and have also modelled the processes for management of passenger flow and passenger convenience.

Back in April 2022 Lithuania had selected Easier and Idemia for equipping with more than 70 self-service entry and exit system kiosks and more than 30 automated border crossing lanes at main checkpoints for land-sea air border crossings.

Besides Lithuania, Iceland and Denmark have also chosen IDEMIA for their entry and exit system, but their progress in this direction has been slower.