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Schengen and Olympic security at risk over delayed database


21 Oct 2009


Central Europe
EU Priorities 2020

The European Parliament has pressed the Commission this week over the lack of progress in implementing the upgraded Schengen Information System II (SIS II) and the new Visa Information System (VIS) which have been delayed by more than a year and a half due to difficulties setting up the operational database. The smooth functioning of Schengen border controls and visa issuing is essential to guarantee security and free circulation within the Schengen area, and also to security for the 2012 London Olympics since the UK is set to join SIS II for access to Europ-wide police data

These systems are counterpart measures to free circulation within the Schengen area. The SIS database alerts law enforcement and border control agencies in Member States to persona non grata such as those wanted for arrest or extradition,as well as missing persons. The upgraded version will include biometric data and expanded functions.The VIS database, which will contain fingerprints and facial scans, will enable all Schengen Member States to get better information on visa applicants to combat criminality, fraud and overstaying while ensuring a smoother and speedier visa application process for the benefit of the applicants.

Sarah Ludford, ALDE spokesperson on EU visa policy and author of Parliament's report on the VIS system, commented:

"The delays in two such high profile databases vital to secure EU border management and internal security are very regrettable, especially since the European Parliament adopted all the legislation in good time to avoid such delays in operation. The European Commission owes us detailed explanations."

"The UK could have joined the present Schengen Information System years ago to access data on wanted and suspected terrorists and criminals but chose to wait for the new version. That decision now threatens to prejudice security for the 2012 London Olympics since the new system may not be up and running in time. There has to a contingency plan such that Londoners and the games are not put at risk."

The EP resolution raises serious questions about the ability of the chosen private contractor to implement the state of the art biometric databases and calls on the Commission to explain the delays and penalties and any possible back-up plan to replace it. Moreover, Member States are urged to re-double their efforts to ensure that their national preparations are not causing further delays in SIS II and VIS.

For more information, please contact:
Neil Corlett: +33-3-88 17 41 67 or +32-478-78 22 84
Federica Terzi: +33-3-88 17 35 53 or +32-494 18 88 31