Archive for March 4th, 2013

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EU “Smart Borders” – Easier traveling for Ukrainians?

March 4, 2013

Now, as we all know, Ukrainian Visa-free travel with the EU should be a lot closer to reality than it actually is.  Particularly as this issue has been deliberately kept free of personality/government image/perception politics and kept fully insulated within the technical and legal requirements to facilitate it.  No more and no less.

The simple fact is, Visa-free travel for Ukrainians is not as close to being a reality as it could be because of the inaction of the Ukrainian politicians failing to pass the necessary legislation and fighting over the business interests when it comes to who will actually get the lucrative contracts to  produce biometric passports etc.

In truth very little blame can be attached to the EU over the failure of Ukraine to do what needs to be done to actually make Visa-free travel a reality for its citizenry.  The goal posts are not moving.  It is in fact an open goal free from effects of  playing field shifting political shenanigans.  Failure to score in the gaping goal is completely and utterly the fault of the Ukrainian political elite – who one suspects are on the receiving end of far fewer Visa refusals than the average Ukrainian.  Quite frankly, nobody else is to blame.

However, whilst the population of Ukraine patiently wait for their lackluster and self-centered elite to do what is necessary to remove what is often a very expensive, logistically burdensome, heavily and often overly intrusive bureaucratic process, the European Commission is trying to convince the European Parliament to engage in a “Smart Borders” project to make travel easier for people from “third countries”.

The cost of this project – an estimated Euro 1.1 billion.  In EU speak estimated is equivalent to saying “at a minimum”.

The system is supposed to divide visitors to the EU into two categories.  Regular visitors (RTS) and occasional visitors (EES).

Regular visitors will apply to be registered as such – and if successful will be given some form of smart/swipe card and can simply swipe their way into and out of the EU – like some form of electronic Schengen Visa centrally issued and centrally monitored.

Occasional visitors will rely on their biometric passports – or not in the case of Ukraine which is still to generate its first biometric passport for the reasons I have listed above.

Those with biometric passport will have the details stored for 6 months on entry – unless they have previously overstayed when such details can be retained indefinitely according to the proposal – Privacy activists no doubt will have issues with “indefinitely”.

Further, all information gathered can be “available to” all national police institutions.  Whether they will be legally bound to delete all information they may take that was “available” after 6 months, I suspect, will become another major issue.  In effect they can “obtain” all biometric data of any non-EU member entering the EU from a centrally held data base (until deleted) at any time – and may not have to delete it after 6 months as the central data base will.

Hmmm.

Privacy issues aside, surely there is only one simple question to be asked and answered here.

Will the new system make life significantly easier for the EU nations, easier for travelers, but strike the necessarily right balance against illegal/irregular migration?  At an estimated Euro 1.1 billion (guaranteed to be much more), “significant” is an issue here!

Anyway, if this manages to get past the European Parliament and actually become a reality, one has to suspect it will not become reality for a good 5 years at least – probably longer.

Will Ukraine have produced a biometric passport by then?

If it has, then many of the legislative (and business interests) that are preventing it actually making Visa-free a reality for its citizenry will have already been overcome.  The technical monitoring phase would be well underway.  Visa-free imminent, in effect.

So whilst the benefits for the EU from this “smart borders” project seem rather limited from the outset (whether that third nation is Ukraine or not) – and are replete with “privacy issues” – the benefits for Ukraine, as long as the politicians get their self-centred fingers out of their incredibly idle arses, should theoretically be zero given the time frames.

……..And yet, I write this in the full expectation of having to register my wife on the Regular Travelers Programme sometime after 2018 – which will have limited benefit to the EU, limited benefit for her and underline just how feckless the Ukrainian political elite across the entire political spectrum actually is.

Not that any of the above will help much with the UK – Due to my wife regularly swapping her eyeballs, altering her fingerprints frequently, and changing the bone structure of her face as often as the bedding, she will necessarily have to continue to haul herself to Kyiv to be “re-biometricised” every time she needs a new UK Visa.

Rather than be offered a postal service option, having already held 4 UK Visas and thus the UK having her biometrics that many times already – we will continue with the idea she is some form of shape-shifter.

Although to be honest, when the next one expires we may never go again – the UK really isn’t that interesting compared to the rest of Europe – and Schengen Visas are easy to get without leaving Odessa should the “Smart Borders” project be rejected and the old systems remain in place.

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