Stop Foreign Fighters: EU to Tighten External Border Checks

Written by | Monday, February 20th, 2017

All EU nationals and citizens of third countries entering or leaving the EU will be systematically checked against a number of databases, such as of lost and stolen documents or the Schengen Information System (SIS), under a new regulation that was voted on last week (16 February). “Securing our external borders means building up a strong shield against terrorism in Europe and preserving the right to life, which is the corollary of all rights,” stressed rapporteur Monica Macovei.

“Every life that we save by unveiling a potential foreign fighter is worth the journey, and systematic checks against databases are a mandatory step towards this minimum protection that we have a duty to ensure for our citizens”, Ms. Macovei added. The new regulation amends the Schengen Borders Code (SBC) and it was presented for the first time by the European Commission in December 2015. It makes it obligatory for the Member States to carry out systematic checks on all individuals crossing EU external borders against various databases.

The checks will be mandatory at all air, sea and land borders, on both entry and exit. However, if these checks slow land and sea traffic too much, EU countries may opt out for “targeted checks only“ – provided that a risk assessment has shown that this would not lead to threats to internal security. The rule change naturally seeks to address the threat of terrorism in Europe, following a series of recent terror attacks in Brussels, Paris and Berlin. It particularly focuses on the phenomenon of the so-called “foreign fighters”, which basically refers to EU citizens joining terrorist organizations and groups in conflict zones, such as the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

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