On December 28th, 2018, new rules to strengthen the Schengen Information System (SIS) entered into full force. These regulations were initially proposed by the European Commission in December 2016. Currently, the SIS is Europe’s most widely used information sharing system for security and border management. Its functions are managed by the eu-LISA Agency.
One of the European Union’s biggest concerns is the safety of the region. This is why in November 2016, the ETIAS system was proposed to improve the security of the EU and manage border control more efficiently. ETIAS stands for European Travel and Information Authorisation System and it is being developed by the eu-LISA Agency.
The new system is not a visa, but a waiver system for visitors who are visa-exempt. The idea is that people who need to apply for an ETIAS will be pre-screened before travelling to Europe. Applicants’ data will be contrasted against several security databases, including SIS.
In 2017, SIS was consulted over 5 billion times by national authorities. Upgrading the database will contribute to better monitoring of foreign visitors that are crossing the EU’s borders. SIS will also support police and law enforcement in capturing dangerous criminals and terrorists. The new rules that have come into force will offer greater protection of missing children and vulnerable adults.
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said:
“We are closing a critical security gap today in the EU. Member States will have an obligation to introduce terrorism alerts into the reinforced Schengen Information System. Anyone posing a threat should not go unnoticed anymore: the interoperability of SIS with our other information systems on security, borders and migration in the near future will make sure that all the dots are properly connected on our radar screens.”
According to Commissioner for the Security Union, Julian King, the SIS is an essential tool for security in the EU. “SIS allows national authorities to catch criminals and terrorists all over Europe,” King said.
New SIS alerts will contribute to making Europe safer, especially when it comes to tackling terrorism. King added that they come “as part of our efforts to strengthen information sharing and make our information systems work together more effectively.”
New SIS rules and alerts
Since December, the new rules on alerts related to terrorism apply as follows:
- Greater vigilance for terrorist offences: National authorities must create a SIS alert for all cases related to terrorist offences. When 2019 ends, Member States are required to inform Europol of hits alerts linked to terrorism which will help connect the dots at the European level. ETIAS applications will be contrasted against Europol, Interpol and SIS to identify potential threats.
- Stronger data protection rules: the new rules are in line with the new General Data Protection Regulation and the Police Directive on data protection.
There are a few new funcionalities in the SIS that will be implemented in phases. The goal is that the system will be fully operational in Member States in the next three years. These phases are:
- New alerts on criminals and return decisions: The new rules allow SIS alerts to be issued for unknown persons who are in connection with a crime. The category for “return decisions” has been introduced to improve the enforcement of return decisions issued to irregularly staying third-country nationals.
- Stronger provisions on missing children and people in need: National authorities will be able to issue preventive alerts on persons who are in need of protection.
- Enforcement of entry bans: It will be obligatory to insert into SIS any entry bans issued to third-country nationals preventing them from entering the Schengen Area.
During President Juncker’s 2016 State of the Union Address, he highlighted the importance of overcoming shortcomings in data management. It was essential for the EU to improve the interoperability of existing information systems. The strengthening of the Schengen Information System, SIS, is one of the many actions being taken to improve the security and safety of all Member States.
A comprehensive evaluation was carried out in 2016 to identify areas of improvement for SIS. The legislative proposals were presented by the Commission in 2016 and co-legislators adopted the Commission proposals in November last year.
SIS is a large-scale centralised information system that supports checks at all external Schengen borders. It contributes and improves law enforcement and judicial cooperation in 30 countries. The SIS provides information on individuals who do not have the right to enter or stay in the Schengen Area. These individuals are usually persons sought in relation to criminal activities and missing persons, as well as details of certain lost or stolen objects (for example cars, firearms, boats, and identity documents) and data that is needed to locate a person and confirm their identity.