2. Interoperable EU databases

While EU institutions have been discussing the possibility of “interoperability” between justice and home affairs databases since the early years of the 21st century,[1] it was not until 2016 that concrete plans were put in motion. The European Commission framed a series of terrorist attacks and the arrival of over one million refugees as security threats that required the creation of a comprehensive digital identity architecture for non-EU nationals.[2] This was to be achieved by interconnecting existing databases and setting up new ones, to close “information gaps” and “blind spots”[3] – a framing that provides a continual justification for expanding surveillance and data collection schemes. Nearly seven years later, those plans are in full swing and new elements are continuously being added,[4] demonstrating that the existing architecture is not an end in itself but a building block for more comprehensive systems of surveillance and control.

The core elements of the EU’s interoperability architecture are:

  • the European Search Portal (ESP, granting a user the ability to make simultaneous searches of any database(s) to which they have access);
  • the Shared Biometric Matching System (sBMS, facilitating biometric searches across the interconnected systems);
  • the Multiple Identity Detector (MID, which will be used for the automated detection of suspected false or fraudulent identities, through the large-scale comparison of “identity data”); and
  • the Common Identity Repository (CIR, a new centralised database that will hold “identity data” from each of the underlying systems, bar the Schengen Information System: identity data consists of name, nationality, date of birth, sex/gender, fingerprints, facial image, and travel document information).

These are to be used to interconnect data from, and facilitate access to:

  • the Entry/Exit System: to monitor the dates, places and times at which temporary visitors (e.g. tourists, businesspeople or visa holders) enter and exit the Schengen area. The system will automatically calculate the amount of time they are permitted to stay and issue automatic alerts to national authorities on individuals who stay longer than permitted, with the aim of having them removed from the Schengen area;
  • Eurodac: established as a database of asylum-seekers’ fingerprints and used for determining the EU member state responsible for an asylum application, it is now being turned into “a common European database to support EU policies on asylum, resettlement and irregular migration”;
  • the European Criminal Records Information System on Third-Country Nationals (ECRIS-TCN): contains information on non-EU nationals who have been convicted in one or more EU member states, in order to make it easier for national authorities to find information on convictions handed down elsewhere in the EU;
  • the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS): to ensure the vetting of citizens of countries who do not currently require a visa to enter the Schengen area - for example the UK, USA, Canada, Japan, multiple Latin American states, Ukraine and others;
  • the Schengen Information System (SIS): a database containing alerts on third-country nationals refused entry into or stay in the Schengen area, individuals subject to deportation, and persons or objects sought for police or judicial purposes; and
  • the Visa Information System (VIS): aids implementation of the common visa policy by storing data on all short-stay Schengen visa applicants, as well as long-stay visas and residence permits that have been issued.

A further crucial element in the interoperability architecture is the new Central Repository for Reporting and Statistics (CRRS), which is discussed in more detail below.

Previous section
1. Introduction


[1] European Commission, ‘Communication on improved effectiveness, enhanced interoperability and synergies among European databases in the area of Justice and Home Affairs’, Council document 5122/05, 29 November 2005, https://www.statewatch.org/media/documents/interoperability/interoperability/Unsorted/council/eu-council-interoperability-15122-05.pdf

[2] “In the past three years, the EU has experienced an increase in irregular border crossings into the EU, and an evolving and ongoing threat to internal security as demonstrated by a series of terrorist attacks.” See: European Commission, COM(2017) 794 final, 12 December 2017, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52017PC0794

[3] European Commission, ‘Stronger and Smarter Information Systems for Borders and Security’, COM(2016) 205 final, 6 April 2016, https://www.statewatch.org/media/documents/interoperability/interoperability/commission/eu-com-205-communication-on-stronger-and-smart-borders-06-04-16.pdf

[4] ‘European police facial recognition system must be halted, warns new paper’, Statewatch¸ 7 September 2022, https://www.statewatch.org/news/2022/september/european-police-facial-recognition-system-must-be-halted-warns-new-paper/; ‘EU: Tracking the Pact: Access to criminal records for “screening” of migrants’, Statewatch¸ 26 July 2022, https://www.statewatch.org/news/2022/july/eu-tracking-the-pact-access-to-criminal-records-for-screening-of-migrants/


Spotted an error? If you've spotted a problem with this page, just click once to let us know.

Report error