HomeTechMalta, EU agree over Schengen tech delay

Malta, EU agree over Schengen tech delay


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The government and European Commission have agreed on an interim solution for Malta’s border because the country is unlikely to have the technology required for Schengen countries by the deadline of October.

The agreement follows the Commission’s concerns, expressed a few months ago, that Malta is lagging behind in implementing the Entry/Exit System (EES) technology.

When asked, the government did not divulge what the solution consisted of.

European Union sources said the Commission formally reached out to the home affairs ministry late last year, stating they were “significantly concerned”.

The Commission said Malta was among the few countries unprepared to implement the system by the October deadline.

The EES is an automated IT system for registering travellers from countries outside the EU. It is designed to prevent irregular immigration, better spot overstayers and identify cases of identity fraud. It will also help genuine third-country nationals travel more easily, according to the Commission’s website.

“The system will enable wider use of automated border control checks and self-service systems, which are quicker and more comfortable for travellers,” the EC says. The new system will replace the current method of manually stamping passports.

Last month, former PN MP Jason Azzopardi and PN MEP Peter Agius highlighted that Malta had fallen behind. In similar Facebook posts, Azzopardi and Agius said Malta was at risk of being kicked out of the Schengen area until the new system was in place.

Schengen is an agreement between most EU countries and some non-EU countries that allows free and unrestricted movement of people.

“If Malta leaves Schengen, we will all have to start going through the passport controls and delays we had been freed from in 2007,” Agius said.

However, several sources said that Malta being kicked out of the Schengen area over the issue was “never really a possibility”.

The Home Affairs Ministry explained in June why Malta was late in implementing the system.

It said the ministry had encountered “challenges” after the current border controls provider informed the police “at the eleventh hour” that the system was not compatible with the EES, leading the police to issue a call for a new system.

“Following a first call in which no bids were received, a second procurement process is currently in its final stages,” the spokesperson said. Three companies, PTL Limited, NetU Consultants Ltd and Sita BV, applied in the government’s second attempt to tender the EES system.

Sita BV, a large international company specialising in airport IT systems, submitted the lowest bid at around €6 million.

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