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Schengen Information System and Biometrics

It was very hard to pick the correct category for this particular (if outdated) story: European Union, Civil Liberties or Biometrics.

The Schengen system is the agreement between European Union Member States that allows individuals to cross borders without hindrance. However, in order to promote the freedom of movement, the EU set up the Schengen Information System, a database of individual’s names and details for the purpose of :

by means of an automated search procedure, to have access to reports on persons and objects for the purposes of border checks and controls and other police and customs checks carried out within the country in accordance with national law and, in the case of the single category of report referred to in Article 96, for the purposes of issuing visas, the issue of residence permits and the administration of aliens in the context of the application of the provisions of this Convention relating to the movement of persons.

The central database for this system is administered in Strasbourg by the French government.

With the accession of ten new Member States, and the inability of the Schengen Information System to be expanded beyond 18 national databases, it is envisaged that a Schengen Information System II will be established.

This new database will store biometric data and digital photographs, and will be integrated with the Visa Information system that will harmonise the issuance of such documents in Europe.

The institutions that will have access to this system include the national authorities of the Member States, Europol and Eurojust. The development of this database also gives an insight into how European policy works – decide the objective and then identify the laws which will legalise the system:

Appropriate legal bases for proposals to develop SIS II

8. It is necessary to identify the appropriate legal instruments in the treaties in order to develop the system, since the purpose of the SIS is to improve police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (covered by Title VI of the Treaty on European Union) and policy as regards visas, immigration and free movement of persons (covered by Title IV of the EC Treaty). In addition, the Council decision authorising the United Kingdom to participate partly in the SIS, like the two Belgian-Swedish initiatives (a decision and a regulation) adopted by the Council on 6 December 2001, confirmed the mixed nature of the SIS [Official Journal L 328, 13.12.2001].

Note how even the United Kingdom is not excluded and future Member States will have to accede to this part of the acquis communautaire.

12. The Schengen acquis and its developments must be accepted in full by all States applying for accession. It should be noted that participation by an applicant State in the SIS is an essential prerequisite to lifting controls at common frontiers. If a priority of the new system is to allow the future Member States to integrate, it is necessary to ensure they are appropriately involved in the implementing activities. The Commission undertakes to inform them regularly of progress and invites them to send any observations they may have.

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