Brussels – EU Council adopted a regulation amending the Schengen Borders Code (SBC) to reinforce checks against relevant databases at the external borders.
Malta, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said through Justice Minister Owen Bonnici that reaching an agreement on those regulations means that the EU is now more equipped to face terrorist threats.
The minister added that the message is now clear: any fighter traveling into and from the EU will be stopped. He did, however, stress that security without the respect of primary rights of individuals is not acceptable.
The adopted regulations would enter into force after both the Council and the European Parliament sign it and its publication of the EU’s official journal. Members will be granted 18 months to regulate their internal laws accordingly.
The amendment obliges member states to carry out systematic checks against relevant databases on all persons, including those enjoying the right of free movement under EU law (i.e. EU citizens and members of their families who are not EU citizens) when they cross the external borders.
The databases against which checks will be carried out include the Schengen Information System (SIS) and Interpol’s database on stolen and lost travel documents (SLTD).
The checks will also enable member states to verify that those persons do not represent a threat to public policy, internal security or public health. This obligation shall apply at all external borders (air, sea and land borders), both at entry and exit. However, movement within Europe remains unaffected.
With regard to air borders, member states may only carry out targeted checks against databases for a transitional period of 6 months from the entry into force of the regulation. This period may be extended by up to 18 months in exceptional and specific cases, where there are infrastructural difficulties requiring a longer period of time to make the necessary changes.
In addition, the council stated that where systematic consultation of databases could lead to a disproportionate impact on traffic flows at a sea or land border, member states are permitted to carry out only targeted checks against databases, provided that this will not lead to risks related to internal security, public policy, or the international relations of the member states, or pose a threat to public health.
Also, the new regulations guarantee victims’ rights like the right to support groups, have legal counseling, or the right to ask for assistance to attain and request compensation.
German MEP Monika Hohlmeier said that criminals should be stopped before they execute their terrorists’ acts. “We shouldn’t wait until we express our sorrow for such incidents. Now, there is a balance between enhancing security and primary rights, because security without rights is useless,” she stated.
After the publication in EU’s official journal, UK and Ireland will not be obliged to commit to the new regulations, but they do have to inform the EU if they are willing to.
Earlier in July, EU voted on a bill that makes preparing for a terrorist attack a crime all over EU member states.
Dutch Foreign Minister Ronald Plasterk said that information exchange is done according to the new mechanism. He explained that countries are swapping data about fighters from Europe who travel abroad to join combat.
Plasterk pointed out that due to joint efforts several important achievements have been made in combatting across the borders recruitment networks.