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13 Jun 2018

EU Parliament and Commision agree on Schengen Information System reinforcement proposals

Schengen Information System - SISThe European Parliament and the European Council reached a political agreement yesterday on June 12, on the proposals to reinforce the Schengen Information System, which were tabled by the Commission on December 2016, with the sole purpose of strengthening cooperation between the Member States.

Europe’s large-scale centralized information system, the Schengen Information System (SIS), which supports checks at the external Schengen Borders and improves law enforcement and judicial cooperation between 30 countries throughout Europe, will go through some changes in which the highest EU bodies have agreed on.

It is believed that after these changes are implemented, the reinforced SIS will help border guards to monitor better who is crossing the EU borders, help police in capturing people who are a threat to the EU, as well as that it will offer more protection for missing children and vulnerable adults.

Upon the implementation of these proposals, SIS will be able to issue alerts for unknown persons wanted for a crime, as well as to issue a new alert category called “return decisions” in order to identify third-country nationals who are illegally remaining in the EU and to improve the enforcement of return decisions. Another alert will be created for cases related to terrorism.

The proposals also oblige Member Countries to enter into SIS any bans issued to third-country nationals, in order to prevent them from entering Schengen. Protection of personal data is foreseen to be strengthened through the agreed changes, by bringing it into line with EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation as well as with the Police Directive on data protection.

The changes in SIS also tends to make a more efficient use of fingerprints, palm prints and facial images of those entering the Schengen area, and to permit EU Agencies as Europol access to all alert categories in the SIS.

EU MPs and Commissioners welcome the agreement

EU Parliament and Commission Members welcomed the agreement on the proposals of the Commission, including the Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopolus, who said that SIS is a vital instrument for enhancing the internal security and strengthening the management of the EU’s external borders.

“The system lies at the heart of Schengen. 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,” Avamopolus said.

On the other hand, Julian King, Commissioner for the Security Union said that a strengthened SIS will be able to provide police and border guards with the information that they need in order to help keep Europe safe.

“It is the centerpiece of information exchange in Europe and the main law enforcement database in the EU, and has contributed to almost 40,000 arrests and 200,000 serious criminals being tracked down. We have been making the SIS stronger and smarter – for example with the launch of the Automated Fingerprint Identification System earlier this year – and it will in future be a key pillar underpinning the interoperability of the EU’s information systems,” he said.

Next steps

After the EU Parliament and Commission agreed on the proposals for a reinforced SIS, they now need to be formally adopted by them both.

The new functionalities in SIS will be implemented in different stages, instead of all at once, by 2021. Eu-LISA, the European agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice will be responsible for the implementation of the technical and operational changes into the SIS.

800 thousand hits by SIS within five years

Since April 2013 when the SIS II started operating, 800,000 people or objects being checked by border guards have matched a piece of information in the database, what has resulted with almost 40 thousand people being arrested for committing offences in one of the Member Countries. Another over 150 thousand have been refused entry or stay in the Schengen, while over 28 thousand people reported as missing, have been found having crossed a border into another Member State.

The SIS also helped on tracing 180 thousand people who were traced to assist with criminal judicial procedures, and over 200 thousand traveling serious criminals were located.

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