Building Partnerships and Ensuring Trust


ICAO’s 11th MRTD Symposium brought together government officials, international organizations and industry for a united purpose: to support the ICAO TRIP strategy as a comprehensive approach to identifying travellers; to learn from each other and to work on common ways to further facilitate traveller identification.

The European Union (EU) has observer status in ICAO and actively participates and contributes to ICAO efforts to attain interoperable standards for travel documents around the world. This is not only necessary within the aviation security framework, but also for travel documents and border security.

Within the EU, the threat of terrorist attacks has focussed attention on the movement of Foreign Terrorist Fighters and others who would do us harm, whether they are our own nationals or those of other countries, who are coming in and out of our regions. We have seen a massive movement towards the EU of asylum seekers and others. According to Frontex, there were over 700 000 irregular border crossings into the EU and the Schengen Associated States in the first nine months of 2015; three and a half times more than the previous year. Frontex also indicated that there is an increased misuse of Syrian passports since many migrants have claimed to be Syrian in order to have a higher chance of getting refugee status.

Effective management of its borders has become a top political priority for the EU, for security and migration management reasons. While we need to ensure we control our borders, we also need to ensure they do not become barriers to those with a legitimate reason for crossing them.

The EU and its Member States share responsibilities in policy initiatives that include updating approaches to integrated border management and travel document security. There is EU level competence on a common visa policy (short stays of 90 days within any 180 day period), and on the minimum security features and biometrics for passports and documents issued to third-country nationals. Our Member States are competent for breeder/source documents as well as for the issuing procedures, the lay-out and design of passports, and the implementation of the common legislation on document security.

EU legislation on security features and biometrics for passports complies with ICAO standards. We also promote these standards in the framework of our negotiations with third countries on visa liberalisation and visa-free access to the Schengen area.

As we face similar threats and challenges, international cooperation, mutual trust, and globally interoperable standards are crucial. The EU is responsible for legislation on issuing secure travel documents that include biometrics, as well as for the Smart Borders Package, which covers important parts of the identity chain: issuance and control of identity and travel documents. The Smart Borders Package should facilitate border crossing for persons holding secure biometric travel documents and register their entry and exit to and from the EU. It will allow us to identify overstayers and contribute to better migration management.


Pyke is the Director for Migration and Mobility at the European Commission (EU) and was one of the presenters in the opening session of the 11th Symposium and Exhibition on Machine Readable Travel Documents (MRTDs) that was held at ICAO Headquarters in Montreal from 14 to 16 October 2015.

Her speech has been adapted for inclusion in this issue because of its regional focus.