From the end of 2023, the requirements for travel to Europe will change. Travelers from countries that are part of visa-free agreements with the Schengen area will have to apply for ETIAS, if and when they want to enter the Schengen area without a visa. This European Travel Information and Authorization System, somewhat in the style of the ESTA of the United States or of so many other countries, will aim to speed up the entry into Schengen of citizens of the States that are part of the aforementioned agreement, while at the same time reinforcing their own border security.
To achieve both objectives, this electronic travel authorization system has been and will be supported by various European and national bodies. Here we tell you about the main players in the ETIAS, from its conception to its implementation at the end of 2023.
The European Commission was the germ of all that came later in terms of ETIAS. The Commission — one of the EU's seven governing bodies and the one that holds executive power within the community — was the institution that proposed in 2016 the creation of a European travel authorization system, an evolution of the Schengen migration policy. Still under the mandate of Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker and in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, the community body drew inspiration from the US ESTA for its proposal to strengthen Schengen border security.
The ETIAS project generated some turmoil in Britain, which was in the midst of the Brexit process, and underwent several modifications until it was finally drafted. It also had to be ratified by the European Parliament and by the interior ministers of each member state. But there, at the beginning of it all, was the European Commission.
ETIAS Information System
Since the approval of the project, the main ETIAS organization chart is structured around three main units. The first of these is the ETIAS Information System.
The ETIAS Information System will be organized around a Central System, which will be in charge of processing requests and cross-checking databases, both from Europol and Interpol, as well as from other European Community institutions. Around this Central System will operate the Uniform National Interfaces of each member state, the Communication Infrastructures between the different ETIAS bodies and the user-oriented elements: web, mobile application, e-mail service, verification tools, etc.
ETIAS Central Unit
The second of these governing bodies will be the ETIAS Central Unit, which will be managed by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (also known as Frontex), of which it will form a legal part.
As specified on the European Commission's website, the ETIAS Central Unit will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and will have four main tasks:
- Verifies that the data entered in the applications, as well as those collected by other means, are correct and up to date.
- If necessary — due to alerts during the automatic processing of an application — verify the applications and the non-impersonation of the applicant.
- Define, test, implement, evaluate and review specific risk indicators.
- Conduct regular audits of application management and implementation of ETIAS standards, particularly with regard to fundamental rights, data protection and privacy laws.
ETIAS national units
After the Central Unit and the Information System, the third leg of ETIAS will be the National Units.
The ETIAS National Units will be established in each of the countries that will be part of the system. They will be responsible for issuing a risk assessment of the applications rejected by the automated process, as well as deciding whether or not such applications are approved. In case of rejection, and if the applicant chooses to prolong the process and appeal, the National Units will also have to provide the necessary information for such process.
ETIAS Monitoring Board
Outside the main organization chart, there will also be actors with some weight in the management of the new European visa-free travel authorization system. One of these will be the ETIAS Supervisory Board, which, like the Information System, is also part of Frontex.
The Monitoring Board will have a purely advisory role, especially as regards the definition, assessment and review of risk indicators, as well as the implementation of the ETIAS watch list.
The Council will be composed of one representative from each ETIAS National Unit, Europol and Frontex.
Fundamental Rights Regulatory Board
Another purely advisory body will be the Fundamental Rights Regulatory Board, which will act as a guide to the ETIAS Supervisory Board and assess the impact of the processing of applications and of the supervisory rules on the fundamental rights of applicants.
This board will be composed of representatives of Frontex, the European Data Protection Supervisor, the European Data Protection Board and the Fundamental Rights Agency.
Otros actores impicados
Finally, it is worth mentioning other organizations that are not part of ETIAS, but will play an important role in its day-to-day operations.
- Europol: the European Police Cooperation Agency will, of course, be involved in almost every step of the ETIAS application process. From the databases it will provide for background checks, to the advisory role it will play on the boards.
- Eu-LISA: the European Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (Eu-LISA) will be one of the main bodies responsible for the successful implementation of the entire IT system that will support ETIAS.
- Other organizations and their databases: Interpol, Eurodac, the Schengen Information System (SIS), etc.
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