Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

EU Plans Online Screening for Travelers | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Brussels- Millions of tourists and business people visiting Europe will have to complete a 5 euro ($5.35) online security check before arrival if an EU plan to tighten controls on foreigners who do not need visas wins approval.

The system, put forward by the executive European Commission on Wednesday, would check identity documents and residence details against a variety of EU security and crime databases.

Following ISIS attacks in France and Belgium and the chaotic mass arrival of migrants and refugees in Greece, the executive hopes screening can close loop holes at its borders for violent militants, criminals and would-be illegal immigrants.

Similar to the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) system, it would affect citizens of around 60 countries who can visit Europe’s Schengen area for short trips without first applying for a visa, including Americans, Japanese and – depending on what arrangements London negotiates for leaving the EU – potentially Britons too.

The plan now needs approval from governments and the European Parliament.

It is intended to be self-financing through the application fee. The Commission estimates set-up costs at around 200 million euros and annual running costs at 85 million.

Named ETIAS, it would also address European concerns over plans to expand visa-free travel to two big neighbors, Turkey and Ukraine, and would apply immediately to people from non-EU states in the Balkans such as Albania and Serbia.

The aim is to give most people, within minutes of going online, clearance for any number of trips over five years, though it could be canceled at any time if there is cause for concern. Those refused can appeal. EU officials, hope it could be up and running after legislative approval by early next decade.

The U.S. ESTA, valid for two years, costs $14, while Canada’s similar Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), valid for five years, costs C$7 ($5.21).