Schengen Information System improvements to make more efficient use of biometric data, enabling better border control and policing decisions
The European Parliament has laid plans to improve data sharing between the Schengen Information System and participating countries’ border control and law enforcement systems.
The system helps border guards monitor who is entering EU states, supports police and law enforcement in arresting criminals and terrorists and helps to find missing people. It describes itself as ‘the centrepiece of information exchange in Europe and the main law enforcement database in the EU.’
The upgrade will ensure "full interoperability" with other EU information systems for migration, border management and security, according to the European Commission, which manages the giant database.
The Schengen Information System is used by the 30 European countries which have opted to be part of the Schengen zone. Although the UK uses the system, it cannot issue or access Schengen-wide alerts for refusing entry or stay to an individual because it has not chosen to join the zone.
Other EU agencies will benefit from improved access to data under the proposed changes. For example, Europol will gain access to all of the system’s alert categories and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency will get enhanced access to border control related information.
The range of improvements includes more efficient use of identification data such as fingerprints, palm prints and facial images to identify people entering the Schengen area.
An automated fingerprint identification system, the technology within the system that identifies a person on the basis of their fingerprint, was described as “a key pillar underpinning the interoperability of the EU's information system in future” by commissioner for the Security Union Julian King.
King said in a statement: “A strengthened Schengen Information System will provide police and border guards with the information they need to do their jobs and help keep Europeans safe.”
Commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos (pictured), said: “With the new obligatory alerts for terrorist suspects, new alerts on return decisions and stronger interoperability with other systems for security, borders and migration management, it will help preserve free movement and the very essence of Schengen for our citizens, knowing that their union is protecting them."
The project is led by European agency for the operational management of large scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice, eu-LISA.
The work will be completed by 2021, but some improvements, such as the obligation for member states to create terrorism alerts, will be implemented immediately. The next step will be for the European Parliament and the European Council to formally adopt the regulation.
Image: EC Audiovisual Service