Schengen Information System

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The Schengen Information System (SIS), is a governmental database used by European countries to maintain and distribute information on individuals and pieces of property of interest. The intended uses of this system are for national security, border control and law enforcement purposes. A second technical version of this system, SIS II, is scheduled to go live on 9 April 2013[1] under the responsibility of the European Commission.

Information in SIS is shared among institutions of the participating countries in the Schengen Agreement Application Convention (SAAC). The five original participating countries were France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Twenty additional countries have joined the system since its creation: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Greece, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Currently, the Schengen Information System is used by 27 countries. Among the current participants, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland are not members of the European Union.

Although Ireland and the United Kingdom have not signed the Schengen Agreement Application Convention, they take part in Schengen co-operation under the terms of the Treaty of Amsterdam, which introduced the provisions of Schengen Acquis into the European Union. Schengen Acquis allows the United Kingdom and Ireland to take part in all or part of the Schengen convention arrangements. Ireland and the United Kingdom use the Schengen Information System for law enforcement purposes.[2] They do not have access to the Article 26D (former 96) data, because they do not intend to remove the border controls between themselves and the rest of Europe. European citizens still have the right of free movement to the UK, but they must pass through a border control point, unlike in the rest of the Schengen signatory countries, where internal border controls have been largely abolished.

General description[edit]

In the SIS, information is stored according to the legislation of each country. There are more than 46 million[3] entries (called alerts) in the SIS, mostly covering lost Identity Documents. Person alerts make up around 1.9% of the database (≈885,000 records) each containing information items such as:

  • First and last names; middle initial
  • Date of birth
  • Sex
  • Nationality
  • Any aliases they may be using
  • Whether the person in question was armed and/or violent
  • Reason for the alert
  • Action to be taken if person encountered

The remainder of the database is populated with alerts relating to:

  • Lost, stolen, or misappropriated firearms
  • Lost, stolen, or misappropriated identity documents
  • Lost, stolen, or misappropriated blank identity documents
  • Lost, stolen, or misappropriated motor vehicles
  • Lost, stolen, or misappropriated banknotes

SIS does not record travellers' entries into and exits from the Schengen Area (there is no Schengen-wide centralised database tracking entries and exits in all 26 Schengen Member States). However, 10 Schengen Member States (Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain), as well as Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania, have national databases which record travellers' entries and exits, although data is not exchanged between the national databases of these countries.[4][5][6]

A second version of the system (SIS II) is in preparation. SIS II will include the ability to store new types of data and further integrate with the new Member States of the Union. The SIS II system will also be open to use by a greater number of institutions (for example, by legal authorities such as Europol). Personal data will be readable through one centralised data system in all Europe, by the police force and by customs during identity checks. (Although this type of implementation yet remains in the future, local use would be under the responsibility and limited by the technical capabilities of each Member State.) Some would like to use these technical changes to allow the system to be used for investigative purposes, but a great number of Member States wish the function of SIS system to remain strictly limited to police alter identity checks, leaving the role of cross-border criminal investigation to Europol.

History[edit]

The Treaty of Rome of 25 March 1957, as well as the treaty instituting the economic Union of the Benelux countries of 3 February 1958, had, from their inception, the goal of free movement of persons and goods. The Benelux countries, as a smaller group, were able to quickly implement this integration. For the European Community, the focus was initially on economic integration, and it was not until after the signing of the agreement of Saarbrücken, between France and Germany on 13 July 1984, that significant reductions of the controls on persons at the borders between these two states were made.

Joined by the three member states of Benelux, these five countries signed the Schengen Agreement, on 14 June 1985, for the purpose of gradually establishing free movement of persons and goods between them. Although seemingly simple, the Schengen Agreement presented a number of practical difficulties to implementation. One tradeoff for the freedom of movement of people and goods was that each state had to relinquish a portion of its autonomy, trusting its partners to carry out measures necessary to its own safety and security.

In order for the reduction of interior border checks to be done without causing a reduction in national security for member states, and in particular because Europe already faced a real terrorist threat, compensatory measures needed to be implemented .

Drafting the text took five years. It was only on 19 June 1990 that the five precursory states who signed the Schengen Agreement Application Convention of 14 June 1985 (SAAC), began to be gradually joined by Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Austria and the five Nordic Passport Union countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

On 21 December 2007, Schengen border-free zone was once more enlarged to include nine new nations: Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The Schengen Information System today[edit]

Legal aspects and technical characteristics[edit]

Since 25 March 2001, fifteen States apply the SAAC and have lifted police controls at their internal borders. The compensatory measures form the main part of the SAAC, but the principal one, the backbone of Schengen, is the creation of a common information system to the signatory States: the Schengen Information System (the SIS). This system is an innovator as regards police co-operation, legally speaking as well as technically:

  • legally, first of all, by the recognition of the legal force of the records transmitted by the Schengen partners, with the commitment of each State to respect the action to be taken prescribed by the description, as well as insertion, right from the origin, of a device able to ensure the respect of the personal freedoms and the personal data protection.
  • technically, by the complete creation of an information processing system, connected permanently to extremely different various national applications, having to ensure the update in real-time of the national databases. The sharing of personal data with delegation of powers as for the application of the actions to be taken could only be made on the basis of reciprocal confidence, which rests itself on the transparency.

To do this, these States committed by signing the convention to ensure the correctness, the up-to-date status, and the legality of the integrated data, and to use these data only for the ends stated by the relevant articles of convention. These commitments are supplemented by consultation procedures between the States; in particular when for reasons of national law, or of opportunity, an action to be taken cannot be carried out on a given territory. This consultation gives the possibility to national authorities to expose the reasons of right or fact about a record and, on the other hand, to inform a requesting State of the reasons for which the action to be taken would not be applied. This procedure applies in particular for records from foreigners considered as undesirable by a country, but who are holders of a residence permit delivered by another country, for international warrants for arrest, or for cases of State security.

Being an information processing system dealing with the personal data, the preoccupation of protection of the private life existing in the countries founders on the matter is transposed naturally in the text of the convention, which enacts that the existence of a data law is a precondition to the implementation of convention in the countries. Thus, each national authority (for France, the National Commission of Data Processing and Freedoms or "CNIL") is in charge of the control of the national part of SIS. The central system, essentially international although under French responsibility, could not remain without control. The Convention thus created a common control authority, independent of the States, and composed of representatives from the national authorities. It takes care of the strict application of the provisions relating to the personal data protection.

At a technical level, the participating countries adopted a data-processing star architecture made up of a central site containing the reference database, known as C-SIS, for which the responsibility is entrusted to the French Republic by the CAAS, and a site by country, known as N-SIS, containing a copy of the database. These various bases must be identical permanently. All together the C-SIS and N-SIS's constitute the SIS.

Data managed by the SIS[edit]

An agreement was found on the definition of the descriptions to be integrated in this system. They concern the persons:

  • Requested for extradition
  • Undesirable in the territory of a participating State
  • Minor of age, mentally ill patients, and missing persons or in danger with an aim of ensuring their own protection
  • Requested by a judicial authority, such as witnesses, those quoted to appear for notification of judgement and absconders
  • Suspected of taking part in serious offences and having to be the subject of checks or a surveillance control

In addition are concerned the following objects:

  • Motor vehicles under a surveillance control
  • Lost, stolen, or misappropriated vehicles
  • Lost, stolen, or misappropriated banknotes
  • Lost, stolen, or misappropriated identity documents
  • Lost, stolen, or misappropriated blank identity documents
  • Lost, stolen, or misappropriated firearms

By the communication of this data, each State places at the disposal of its partners the information allowing them to ensure for its account, and on the basis of its own information, the share of safety that it delegates to them. A strong technical constraint, aiming at ensuring the update of SIS in a five minutes maximum, ensures the correctness of the data.

Considering that a system is worth only by the use which is made of it, France, for the insertion of the records in of SIS, chose an automated solution, extracting them from the large national databases. This automation limits to the minimum the human interventions, usually generating errors and waste of time. The French records are thus transmitted to the countries participating in SIS, in a very short time.

In the same spirit, France decided to couple the query of the system, by the end-users of the national data bases, with the SIS, without causing an extra load of work for the end-user. Thus, without specific additional operation, the police officer querying the database of the wanted persons (FPR) or the database of the stolen vehicles (FVV) will obtain a response at the level of the Schengen States at the same time as the response at the national level.

The discoveries carried out by the end-users, on the basis of SIS records, implies as mandatory the application of the measurements envisaged by the action to be taken, indicated by the requesting country. The operation of SIS thus generates an exchange of information between the services of the participating States.

The linguistic problem brought the creation of particular procedures which describe, according to pre-established forms, the way in which the exchanges must proceed, as well as the creation, in each country, of an office particularly in charge of this new international form of cooperation. This service, single contact point by country, ensures the transmission between the French and foreign services of the all relevant information, allowing the execution of the measure to be taken. Their translation, took the name of SIRENE (Supplementary Information Request at the National Entry). Whenever a State authority has a hit on a SIS record, the SIRENE exchange, by its own communication network, sends notification forms of the discovery and further information which, although essential to the good continuation of the investigations and procedures in progress, cannot appear in the SIS records themselves.

Police co-operation and legal mutual assistance[edit]

Beside the SIS and the SIRENE offices, whose intervention are directly dependent, the Schengen convention instituted police co-operation and legal mutual assistance which usefully complete these operational dispositions. The police co-operation covers in particular:

  • assistance for purposes of prevention and search for punishable facts (article 39)
  • right for cross-border surveillance allowing the continuation of a police surveillance in another Schengen country (article 40)
  • right for cross-border pursuit which prevents that an individual author of an in flagrante delicto does not owe his immunity to the fact of crossing a border which is not controlled any more (article 41)
  • finally the communication of information, significant for the repression or the prevention of in flagrante delicto or threats for the order and public safety (article 46)

The legal mutual assistance envisages in particular, the possibility of transmitting directly certain parts of procedure by postal way to the persons being on the territory of other States; to transmit requests for legal mutual assistance directly between legal authorities; finally to transmit the execution of a criminal judgement to a contracting part on the territory of which one of its nationals took refuge. In addition, the convention compares the inscription of a warrant for arrest in the SIS to a request for provisional arrest for extradition, which causes to ensure the immediate placement of the individuals under extradition detention.

System evolution[edit]

SIS1[edit]

At the end of November 2011, renewal of SIS1 took place (more than one year later that it was initially planned). It was the second renewal of SIS1 (so called SIS1+R2). One of the main advantages of second renewal is no limitation of the number of states connected to SIS1. In the previous version of SIS1, only 30 states could connect to SIS1. The main reason for renewal was connection of Romania and Bulgaria. In the previous version of SIS1, it was not possible to connect them to SIS since there were 28 states and Europol and Eurojust connected. Although SIS1+R2 took place, Romania and Bulgaria are still not connected due to political objectives.[citation needed]

Evolution towards SIS II[edit]

A second technical version of this system (SIS II) which should have been completed by the end of 2006[7] is still currently[when?] under development, under the responsibility of the European Commission. Its deployment is currently planned in the first quarter of 2013.[8] Some[who?] would like it to become a system of investigation, thus modifying its original finality of a check tool. To justify this evolution, the current system was criticised because of its limitation with 18 connections. This limitation has no technical reason, tests having proven the ability of the current system to sustain the traffic produced by thirty countries, but is a political issue, as the Council decided to limit this number of connections on the SIS 1+ (modification due to overcome the Year 2000 problem and allow the connection of the five Nordic States rapidly) to 18 connections. Some of the system's technicians estimate that the current system could have evolved to manage the new countries without an overall recasting. See for example report/ratio of the French Senate (p. 14) on the recasting of SIS. Had the Council chosen to follow the smooth evolution path from SIS 1+ to SIS II, the SIS II would already be operational and the new member states could connect their systems whenever they are ready. The critics of the project, of recasting, point out the flexibility of the current system, although it already knew several evolutions. They criticise the risks of delay and the significant cost of the draft prepared by the Commission. According to wishes of the European political leaders for greater accessibility to the data of all the services contributing to interior security, SIS II's improvements to the SIS are acceptable. These accesses, which will soon[when?] be open to the end-user, do not depend, for the majority, on the system itself but on the management of the data in the participating countries themselves.

SISone4ALL[edit]

Due to delays in the SIS II deployment, which should have been available in mid-2008, Portugal offered a modified version of its SIS 1+ system to new member states. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia accepted the Portuguese proposal and use the new system until the SIS II deployment. This version, named SISone4ALL, which was developed by SEF (Portugal's Border and Foreigners Service) and Critical Software Technologies,[9] was deployed in 2007 and allowed the adherence of participant new Member States to be on schedule.

Switzerland also decided to join Schengen using SISone4ALL before SIS II deployment.

In December 2011, Liechtenstein joined Schengen also using SISone4ALL.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]