Anita Orav and Alessandro D’Alfonso (European Parliamentary Research Service)
The 2015 refugee crisis pointed to the problems related to cross-border crossing. In addition to the issues of humanitarian nature and solidarity, the question regarding safety risks has emerged as well. The errors that occurred while trying to solve this crisis have provided the space for a debate about how to deal with the problematic points in the current system and the ways to improve the mechanisms currently used.
From a security point of view, it is mainly criminals or “lone wolves” who mingle with the crowds of migrants and refugees and thus get to the Schengen area, which poses a major risk. This risk greatly undermines what has long been regarded as one of the principal practical benefits for EU citizens – free movement of persons within the Schengen area. Apart from the risk of destabilization of one of the success stories of European integration, another pressing problem is terrorism and crimes committed by unidentified individuals moving freely in the Schengen area.
These undesirable developments should be avoided in the future through a better interconnection of the existing databases of the Schengen Information System, Visa Information System and Eurodac system of biometric information with other databases. These could include databases of individual EU Member States, which are, however, not members of the Schengen Agreement, such as Bulgaria and Romania. Another of such improvements to the overall system of dealing with information about the entrants into the Schengen area should ensure the integration of the EES mechanism (The Entry-Exit System). This would serve to ensure the compliance with the rules for short-term stays in the countries of the Schengen Agreement, and especially to facilitate the enforcement of the 90-day limit for staying inside the Schengen area. The enforcement of this rule has so far been rather difficult.
In addition to the aspects ensuring security for both residents and visitors to the EU, these changes, however, bring controversy in the area of the protection of personal information. Even the mere obligation to have one‘s fingerprints and photograph taken when entering the Schengen area can cause resentment and sense of humiliation in the eyes of the citizens of third countries. There are, however, other issues that, despite these novelties in the system, would not be conclusively resolved. These include, for example, the issue of people staying in the countries of the Schengen Agreement illegally, which EES system cannot tackle for obvious reasons.
(The study can be downloaded here:http://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document.html?reference=EPRS_BRI(2016)586614)