Experiences from the Field
Mr Francis Deschrijvere, Local Security Officer for the EU laissez-passer (EULP), shared his experiences gained with the introduction of a brand-new travel document at the High Security Printing Conference in Malta at the end of March 2019.
A new document is a challenge, as not only its looks and feels are unknown to border officers, but also as a new 3-Letter-Code was introduced for the EU laissez-passer. ISO assigned “EUE” as the new code for the European Union travel document, until then unknown to any machine-assisted document-reading system.
During and following the introduction of the laissez-passer in November 2015, many informative measures were taken to make the document publicly known. Specimen kits were distributed through EU delegations abroad, articles were published in relevant magazines, a conference was held to which journalists and airlines were invited, the EULP was included in document databases and the website www.laissez-passer.eu was launched.
In theory, the marketing was very well done. In practise, it still did not prove to be enough.
There was the human factor: the document was unknown to the officer sitting in the border booth, because the relevant information did not reach him, and he doubted its existence or suspected a fake document, simply because he had never seen it before. As only about 10.000 EULPs have been issued to date, the documents do not frequently pass an officer’s desk.
Incidents were reported where travellers were denied boarding, because there was a doubt about the visa conditions for the EULP holder. In such cases, airline companies tend to refuse boarding, as they do not want to risk repatriation at their charge in case the traveller is denied entry in the country of destination. Even within the EU territory, occasionally the EULP was not accepted despite the fact that it is part of the protocol on privileges and immunities, annexed to the EU Treaties that all Members States have signed, which makes the recognition compulsory. A very frustrating situation at that time.
There was the technical factor as well: ABC gates did not open and document readers refused to accept the EULP, as the code EUE was not added to the system. Often it was even impossible to book a flight online, as API (Advances Passenger Information) increasingly requires passport details, and the drop-down menus for issuing countries did not provide for the EU as a document issuer.
The EU detected two main reasons for this situation:
- Border checks are not done online. The systems are not connected to document databases, where the necessary information could be easily retrieved or the CSCA could be verified.
- Another problem is the terminology: the “EU laissez-passer” is sometimes called EU diplomatic passport, which leads to confusion.
Now in its fourth year of circulation, measures have been taken to improve the situation:
- Communication with border agencies to install the EUE 3-Letter-Code and the EU LP CSCA
- The EU is member of the ICAO PKD since Oct 2017 – so it is even easier to check certificates
- CSCA of EULP EUE shall be used as CA to sign EU Masterlist, which will increase the trust
- Raising awareness at border agencies and airlines on available tools for online checks (e.g. PRADO)
- Spreading the information at events dedicated to border management.
Mr Deschrijvere is continuously promoting the distribution of timely and correct information about the existence and validity of the EULP to allow seamless travel for EU staff members and their families travelling on the EU laissez-passer.