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Schengen Information System II
This Communication studies the possibilities of producing and developing SIS II, given that the new Member States will not be able to participate in the present SIS, that the legal context has been altered by the Amsterdam Treaty and that technology has evolved. It clarifies the functions and aims of SIS II and invites the applicant countries to take part in the project, in particular by submitting their comments.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council: Development of the Schengen Information System II[COM(2001) 720 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
The SIS is an information system that allows the competent authorities in the Member States to obtain information regarding certain categories of persons and property. It is thus a vital factor in the smooth running of the area of security, freedom and justice. It contributes to the implementation of the provisions on the free movement of persons (Title IV of the Treaty) and to judicial cooperation in criminal matters and police cooperation (Title VI of the Treaty). The current SIS was designed to cope with 18 States (the 15 Member States, Iceland, Norway, and one in reserve). Its technology is clearly outdated and new development possibilities should therefore be studied.
The setting-up of the second-generation SIS is an absolute prerequisite for the involvement of the new Member States in the area without internal frontiers. Following the Council meeting on 28 and 29 May 2001 which confirmed that priority must be given to developing SIS II by 2006, the Commission agreed to be responsible for financing and developing the system (by virtue of its responsibility for implementing the Community budget). However, the Commission points out that the project will be developed in close cooperation with the Member States, the applicant countries, the Council, the European Parliament and the Joint Supervisory Authority (JSA).
A preliminary study on the possible development of SIS was carried out in 1998. Work has since intensified with a view to the enlargement of the Union. The Commission believes it is now essential to define the functions of SIS since it could, in the near future, become not only a reporting system but an investigation system. It will therefore be necessary to define the authorities that will have access to the system (judicial authorities of the Member States, but also Europol, Eurojust, security forces, etc.) and the new categories of data.
In addition, the SIS will have to differentiate itself from Europol's information system focussing on the prevention and detection of threats to public order and security rather than on investigations into organised crime.
As regards the application of the provisions on the free movement of persons, the development of SIS will be valuable from several points of view, notably to guarantee the authenticity of documents and the identification of illegal residents.
Development of SIS II from 2002
As it is responsible for the project, the Commission must take account of a number of key elements, namely the coherence and continuity of the system, cooperation with the Member States, data protection, the choice of network, level of security, etc.
Firstly, in cooperation with the Member States and alongside work underway in the Council, the Commission will carry out a feasibility study concerning the technical, financial and organisational aspects of the project. It will then deal with the problems of the migration of SIS to SIS II and the integration of the new Member States.
Appropriate legal bases for proposals to develop SIS II
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 of 13.12.2001].
The Commission is aware of the fact that the questions relating to the position of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark and the participation of Iceland and Norway in the development of the Schengen acquis will have to be considered very carefully.
Operational management of SIS II
The Commission considers that it is too soon to discuss the future management of SIS II and hence the possibility of entrusting the central component to an agency (the European Parliament's Coelho report recommended setting up a separate agency). However, it takes the view that a central unit will be needed to carry out certain tasks (help desk, data protection, etc.).
Managing such a complex system with a highly technical content could make it necessary to externalise certain activities in various forms:
- decentralisation: delegation of executive responsibilities to national public bodies acting as partners;
- outsourcing: delegation of responsibilities to private sector firms under external contracts;
- devolution: delegation of executive responsibilities to agencies.
Any decision on management will depend on the structure as well as the content of the system and will have to take its mixed nature into account.
Involvement of new Member States of the European Union
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 borders. If the 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.