Europol, Frontex Says ETIAS Hindered by Delays Under eu-LISA’s Oversight

| January 24, 2024
Europol, Frontex Says ETIAS Hindered by Delays Under eu-LISA's Oversight

The launch of the European Union’s (EU’s) new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) has been plagued with delays.

Europol and Frontex have warned that persistent issues could still hinder the implementation of a new system.

Europol is the EU’s law enforcement agency. It supports all member states in preventing and combating serious crimes and terrorism.

On the other hand, Frontex oversees border control at the EU’s external borders. It shares intelligence with EU members and neighboring non-EU countries affected by migration and cross-border crime.

Statewatch, a non-profit organization monitoring civil liberties in the EU, has revealed details from both agencies’ reports. The reports cover ETIAS developments between April and September 2023.

According to reports, Europol and Frontex attribute ETIAS delays to the EU’s database agency, the eu-LISA, which supervises ETIAS development.

The eu-LISA stands for the European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security, and Justice.

EU’s new travel authorization for visa-exempt citizens

ETIAS is a new travel authorization system for all non-visa nationals entering the EU.

Foreign nationals who do not need a visa to visit the EU’s Schengen Area for short trips will require an ETIAS before their travel.

All individuals applying for an ETIAS will undergo screenings and be profiled based on security databases and a set of risk indicators.

Initially scheduled to launch in 2022, the complex travel authorization system has faced multiple postponements.

Barring any more delays, the ETIAS is set to roll out in mid-2025. It will be rolled out gradually over 12 months.

Tech delays hinder ETIAS development, says Frontex

Frontex stated that eu-LISA’s delayed development of critical carrier and traveler support tools poses the “highest priority risk” for ETIAS.

The delays impact the “assessment functionality for the risk screening of the ETIAS applications,” which profiles travelers.

The report also reveals that some EU member states have yet to act on requests for approval of appeal process information templates.

The templates are required for travelers who wish to appeal against the refusal, revocation, or annulment of an ETIAS.

Additionally, templates for exercising data subject rights are still being developed.

Some member states have also not adopted ETIAS-related legislation and lack procedures for appeals and data protection.

Frontex’s report emphasizes that the absence of this information on the ETIAS public website would be a compliance issue.

The risks do not yet appear critical, but they could be a factor in future delays in the ETIAS implementation.

Delayed ETIAS Central System impedes Europol work

Europol’s report reads, “Various ETIAS Central System-related developments and testing activities continue to be delayed until further notice by eu-LISA.”

“The delays with respect to the ETIAS Central System are creating challenges for planning and resourcing the ETIAS project (and other EU interoperability projects) at Europol,” the report states.

Europol’s key role in ETIAS is to provide opinions to EU member states on applications with data matching their databases.

It is currently creating a new “watchlist” for potential terrorists and criminals. It is also trying to get authorization to use citizen data from non-EU states for evaluating applications.

However, Europol also admitted in its report that it needs more human resources despite 20 agents provided by Frontex.

The agency claims it needs to fill 38 more full-time positions to meet the 60-hour processing requirement for travel authorization applications.

Travel authorization at risk for more delays

While the reports were based on developments in 2023, ongoing delays at the technical and member state areas suggest that the ETIAS may likely be postponed further.

As tasks are not acted upon and missed deadlines pile up, agencies such as Europol and Frontex face increasingly complex challenges.

Still, they must continue to do their part and source and plan for a system marred by uncertainties.

It remains to be seen whether the ETIAS system will be viable until the root causes of these issues are addressed.

Digitizing European travel

ETIAS and the EU’s new automated border system, the Entry-Exit System (EES), are set to digitize travel to the EU. 

The EES digitally records entries and exits and will replace passport stamping. When operational, travelers to the Schengen Area must submit to biometric checks at the EU’s external borders. 

Like the ETIAS, the EES has also experienced delays but is now scheduled to roll out in October 2024. 

The United Kingdom (UK) is also implementing its new digital travel permit system, the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA), that works similarly to the ETIAS. 

Unlike the ETIAS, the UK ETA is already partially operational. By 2024, it will be mandatory for all visa-exempt nationals for short trips to the UK.

All new digital systems by the EU and the UK are set to enhance security and convenience for European travel.