Bri­tish hol­i­day­mak­ers face pay­ing for £10 visa to visit the EU un­der Brussels se­cu­rity crack­down

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

UK hol­i­day­mak­ers could be forced to pay £10 for a visa to go to other EU coun­tries as part of a se­cu­rity crack­down.

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is dis­cussing in­tro­duc­ing a ver­sion of the US visa waiver pro­gramme to boost se­cu­rity.

In­ter­na­tional trav­ellers head­ing to the US are usu­ally ex­empt from a visa but have to ap­ply for an elec­tronic sys­tem travel au­tho­ri­sa­tion known as an Esta. This costs around £10. EU chiefs want to in­tro­duce a sim­i­lar scheme across to help them iden­tify trou­ble­mak­ers and would-be ter­ror­ists en­ter­ing the con­ti­nent.

But it would ap­ply to peo­ple en­ter­ing the so-called Schen­gen zone, which ex­cludes the UK mean­ing Bri­tish trav­ellers would also have to pay to travel to other EU coun­tries.

Sir Ju­lian King, Euro­pean Com­mis­sioner for the se­cu­rity union, said pro­pos­als for a Euro­pean pre-clear­ance sys­tem would be pre­sented this week.

‘We think this is go­ing to be a valu­able ad­di­tional piece of the jig­saw be­cause it will al­low us to know more about the peo­ple who are plan­ning to come to the EU in ad­vance so that if nec­es­sary they raise ques­tions about ei­ther se­cu­rity or in some cases mi­gra­tion,’ Sir Ju­lian said.

‘We’ll be able to in­ter­vene even be­fore they ar­rive in some cases.’

Plans had been mooted over the sum­mer that sug­gested Bri­tons would have to ap­ply for visas to travel through­out con­ti­nen­tal Europe once the UK leaves the EU.

But the 26-na­tion pass­port-free Schen­gen zone, which does not in­clude the UK, could op­er­ate a visa pro­gramme sim­i­lar to the US waiver be­fore Brexit.

Cur­rently, Bri­tish pass­port hold­ers can travel through­out mem­ber states with­out hav­ing to ap­ply for short-term visas of any type.

The Esta pro­pos­als are part of a broader re­sponse to calls for greater se­cu­rity across the con­ti­nent fol­low­ing re­cent ter­ror at­tacks in Europe - and comes one year on from the Paris atroc­i­ties.

Sir Ju­lian said: “It’s that level of present, per­sis­tent, in­dis­crim­i­nate threat that led to 80-plus per­cent of Euro­pean cit­i­zens say­ing they want more ac­tion in this area.

“There are a num­ber of el­e­ments at the heart of this task - tack­ling ter­ror­ism is one, but not the only part of it. There’s work that needs to be done on cy­ber-crime and at­tacks, and se­ri­ous and or­gan­ised crime.”

He also said the EU was work­ing with In­ter­net Ser­vice Providers to tackle ISIS and other ‘un­pleas­ant’ ma­te­rial. He said ISPs were be­ing asked to ‘iden­tify stuff and talk to them whether ac­cord­ing to their rules and pro­ce­dures it should be taken down. Part of Europol, the in­ter­net re­fer­ral unit, has re­ferred thou­sands of items over the last 12 months and in nine out of 10 cases ISPs have taken it down.’

He added: “Un­for­tu­nately Daesh (Is­lamic State) and some of their agents are work­ing in the com­mu­nity to try and spread their mes­sage and try and rad­i­calise in­di­vid­u­als - we have to work against that.”

Sir Ju­lian sug­gested it was eas­ier to do it through ISPs as the in­for­ma­tion was not com­ing from the usual au­thor­i­ties be­cause young peo­ple “feel alien­ated from author­ity.”

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