Got an EU passport? Visa-free travel may cost you
The EU unveiled plans Wednesday to charge travellers for security checks to get visa-free travel to Europe's borderless Schengen area, and confirmed the fee would apply to post-Brexit Britain.
The proposal is based on a US system and will allow EU countries to quickly cross check identity documents and other details from visa-exempt travellers with a host of data bases.
Nationals from nearly 60 countries are exempt from having visas to the Schengen zone, including those from the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Brazil, Chile, Argentina as well as neighbours like Albania and Bosnia.
Under the proposed new system, citizens from those countries would still be allowed visa-free travel, but would have to pay a five-euro (about R76) fee and submit to the checks.
"This is a big and smart step to securing our borders and protecting our citizens," European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told a press conference in Brussels.
"Travellers from visa-exempt third countries can do it at home online. It will be cheap - five euros (about R76) - easy and last for five years.
"For 95 percent of applications it will be just a matter of minutes to get a green light."
Britain has criticised the proposal amid fears that Britons will have to pay the charge, but the EU was unrepentant.
"If the UK is not a member of the European Union, sorry to say it is still to be treated as a third country on this issue" and so have to pay, EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told the press conference.
The EU is trying to clamp down on security after several European cities were hit by terror attacks claimed by the Islamic State group, while the bloc has also been overwhelmed by the arrival of more than one million migrants.
Under the plan, applicants to travel to the 26-country Schengen zone - which includes 22 EU countries as well as Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein - will electronically pay a fee of five euros (about R76) for multiple entries over five years.
All those above 18 years old must pay.
The commission hopes the system can enter force as early as 2020 but its proposal must first clear the 28 member states and the European Parliament.