European Western Balkans

No, announced ETIAS regulations are not a new visa regime

European Commission; Photo: European Union

The European Commission has proposed the establishment of a European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) to strengthen security checks on visa-free travelers.

This was addressed within last year’s President Juncker’s State of the Union address. “We need to know who is crossing our borders. This way we will know who is travelling to Europe before they even get here”, Juncker said. This authorization is not a visa, but a more visitor-friendly regime.

There are 60 countries, among them 5 Western Balkans countries, who are not in the EU, but enjoy a visa-free regime. Citizens from those countries will have to obtain a travel authorization prior to their travel to the Schengen Area.

The main reason for the approval of the ETIAS authorization is security. As a consequence of migrant crisis and terrorist attacks that were happening in Europe recently, Commission decided to introduce this system by 2020 in order to make a better management for identifying persons who may pose an irregular migration or security risk before they arrive at the European borders.

The ETIAS will undergo a detailed security check of each applicant to determine whether they can be allowed to enter any Schengen Zone country, it is stated on the Schengen visa info website. Through this data gathering system, EU will decrease security threats, and it should be a form of  a prevention system before the threat is even there. This system will contribute to EU countries in several ways by assisting in detecting and decreasing crime and terrorism, impeding irregular migration and reinforcing the visa liberalization policy of the EU.

The ETIAS authorization will make travelling to the EU a much safer experience, European officials stated. Security Union Commissioner Julian King said that ETIAS will help defeating terrorists and criminals by spotting problematic individuals and preventing them from coming. The question that can be posed is in regard to the possible discrimination of people coming from Muslim countries. In order to decide whether to issue or reject a request to travel to the EU, an automated system will conduct prior checks in full respect of fundamental rights, it is stated in the press release by the European Commission.

When it comes to expenses for citizens, the price is set at 5 euros for each application, but those under the age of 18 will not have to pay this fee. If approved, permission for travelling will last for 5 years or until passport expiration.

One more important formality about ETIAS is that individuals will have to pass through the first country they stated in their application. For example, if they were planning to visit Portugal, Spain and France, and they have written in their application that the first country they will visit is France, they must go through this country before visiting Spain and Portugal. Same as today, individuals will be able to stay up to 90 days in the Schengen Zone.

If the proposal for ETIAS is approved in the future, more than 60 countries will have to face this new policy, but it will not have any significant impact on people’s usual travels to the EU.

Publication of this article has been supported by the Balkan Trust for Democracy of the German Marshall Fund of the United States

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