A lot of European travelers I meet on the road love to tell me what an insult it is for them to go through U.S. customs, what with all the fingerprint scanning, paperwork, and questions. Well, it looks like payback is coming for Americans and other travelers visiting the European Union (EU).
Reuters reports that yesterday, the European Commission (EC) revealed plans to fingerprint foreigners entering or leaving the “Schengen” zone—a bloc of 24 European countries excluding the U.K., Ireland, Cyrus, Romania, and Bulgaria, but including non-E.U. members Norway and Iceland. An electronic register storing fingerprint scans and other personal data on visitors would be created, similar to the U.S. register created for foreign visitors after 9/11. Air travelers may also need to fill out a form on the Internet before they arrive. The EC’s plans would allow foreigners to participate in a kind of pre-screened registered traveler program in order cross borders more quickly. These new security measures would likely not be put in place until 2015.
This proposal has been criticized by civil liberty advocates and some European politicians as being an invasion of privacy, vulnerable to abuse, and a blind following of the U.S.’s overzealous security measures. I myself don’t know whether these measures would make Europe any safer, but I do know that, in a few years, travelers heading to Europe will be spending a long time at the airport on both ends of their trip.