EES App Aimed to Help Cut Long Queues at the Borders Will Not Be Ready in Time

| April 23, 2024
EES App Aimed to Help Cut Long Queues at the Borders Will Not Be Ready in Time

The head of Eurostar is preparing for the European Union’s (EU’s) new automated border check system without the EES app.

Eurostar’s CEO, Gwendoline Cazenave, told the BBC that the Entry/Exit System (EES) app will not be ready for launch.

The railway company had begun installing more than 49 kiosks at St Pancras Station in London to prepare for the EES.

“It’s all about preparing the customer flow in the station and to have as many staff as possible, as [much] space for the customers to cross the border in a seamless way,” Cazenave told the BBC.

The Eurostar boss added she is “sure [the EU] will deploy [the app] soon.”

This comes after EU spokesperson for Home Affairs Anita Hipper had previously said that the EES app will be ready “from the EES start of operations.”

How the Entry/Exit System works without the EES app

The EU’s new automated border check system, the Entry/Exit System (EES), has replaced stamping passports at the borders.

Instead, the EES will record travelers’ entry and exits using biometric data, such as fingerprints and facial scans.

EU laws require travelers to register facial and fingerprint data before a border officer the first time they enter the Schengen Area.

EU visitors can easily verify their entry and exit on future visits using facial or fingerprint scans.

The EES stores travelers’ biometric data for three years or until their passport expires, whichever comes first. It refreshes data storage time upon each visit.

However, if travelers revisit the Schengen Zone after their data expires, they must re-register their biometric data before a border officer again.

The EES will impact all non-EU travelers, both non-visa visitors and short-stay Schengen visa holders, including British citizens.

According to a new EES survey, nearly a quarter of 2,000 UK citizens said they may “put off” traveling to the EU bloc because of the EES.”

About half said they didn’t like the idea of their biometric data being captured or stored in the EES system.

Warning of long delays at the UK-EU border

The EES survey also showed that 38 percent said the possibility of lengthy delays would make them reconsider visiting the Schengen Zone.

Several travel and transport officials have warned of potential delays at the border when the EES rolls out.

This is mainly due to travelers taking time to complete their initial registration to the EES before a border officer.

The delays are expected to be worse at borders with juxtaposed controls, such as the Port of Dover, Eurostar, and Eurotunnel terminals.

Juxtaposed controls mean French border police conduct immigration checks as people depart the UK.

The Port of Dover and local officials had warned of 14-hour delays at the border due to long queues. Passengers must first exit their vehicles to register their biometrics for the EES.

The long border queues would also impact nearby areas, causing traffic congestion and economic disruptions.

On the other hand, High Speed 1 (HS1) had mentioned possibly limiting the number of passengers to avoid long queues.

EES app could potentially cut long queues

Railway companies HS1 and Eurostar have suggested that biometric registration ahead of time and away from the border would make things easier.

The EES app that the EU is developing aims to reduce wait times for travelers registering biometrics at borders.

Eurostar boss Cazenave is convinced that the EES app would make things smoother.

However, the UAF said airports in Sweden where EES app tests were conducted “were not enthusiastic.”

Nicolas Paulissen, UAF general delegate, expressed his disappointment that it “will not have much impact on waiting times.”

He said the EES app is “not a miracle solution” since it does not take photos or register fingerprints.

Additionally, each EU member state’s decision to use the EES app will be voluntary.

“There is “no legal obligation to make use of it,” said Anitta Hipper.

Calls to postpone the EES implementation

The P&O ferry operations director had asked the EU to postpone the EES until the EES app is ready.

Still, the Union des Aéroports Français (UAF) said the EU is firm in implementing the EES starting in November 2024, even without the app.

The French airports union previously revealed that it was in talks with the EU to postpone the launch of the EES till the first quarter of 2025.

France will host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games from 26 July to 11 August and 28 August to 8 September, respectively.

Due to the expected traffic from the Olympics, no construction work could be done at Parisian airports during that time.

As a result, Paris airports may not be able to set up sufficient EES kiosks to collect biometric data efficiently.

Thomas Juin, the president of UAF, said, “There are risks of really long queues.”

He also emphasized that without more police resources, the risk of border chaos would grow.