SIS II: Major battle between Council and the Commission
- Austria and Germany launch stinging attack on Commission
- the cost has risen by 1000% from 15 million euro to 143 million euro
- the Commission new plans envisage SIS II's capabilities will be "far beneath the capacities" of SIS I+
A confrontation between the Council of the European Union (27 governments) and the European Commission over the long-delayed Schengen Information System II (SIS II) is long over due and now it has broken out. It was planned that the SIS II would be up and running by 2007 but the Commission is now talking about 2013 before it is ready, if then - at least six years late. Now an extraordinary attack on the Commission's competence to deliver SIS II has been mounted by the Austrian and German governments: see: Austrian and German delegations: Further direction of SIS II (pdf)
The Schengen Information System went online in 1995 between the first seven Schengen member states (France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Spain and Portugal). Italy, Austria and Greece joined in 1997 and the Nordic EU states of Denmark, Sweden and Finland, together with non-members Norway and Iceland, joined "SIS 1+" in 2000.
The Council Decision to develop SIS II was taken in December 2001 and the Commission was charged with implementing it but has been dogged with problems and changing demands put out to tender. After a re-run of what is called the "first milestone test" of SIS II it was agreed at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in April 2010 by a majority of EU Member States to "continue the development of SIS II on the basis of the current project." But the Commission then organised a workshop with the Member States and proposed "reducing the requirements of the Central System significantly" (the SIS is based on a Central System fed into by National Systems). This was too much for Austria and Germany who ask 16 questions starting with:
"why after five years of development and a budget increase by 1000% (from originally 15 million [Council Decision of 6 December 2001 on the development of SIS II, 2001/886/JHA; Council Regulation (EC) No 2424/2001 of 6 December 2001 on the development of SIS II] to 143 million [Community Budget Plan]) the European Commission reopens a discussion on the basic and crucial requirements of the system jointly agreed by all MS while performing the call for tender?"
Then: "why the new requirements should be far beneath the capacities of what SIS1+ is able to
perform successfully" when it was explicitly set out in the Council Decision that: "the level of performance of SIS II is at least equivalent to that achieved with SIS 1+?
Why does the Commission want to change requirement for CUDs (Create, Update, Delete) on the Central System from 3 minutes to 5-10 minutes? Do not the Commission's new proposals breech Community Budget Law and Community Tendering Rules?
Perhaps the most devastating charges that Austria and Germany make are:
1) Why is the Commission proposing to change the tender requirement for the "switch-over to the disaster recovery IT-centre" from 4 minutes (as agreed) to 30 minutes and thus:
"why the European Commission considers the implementation of an expensive disaster recovery IT-centre as useful, when the technical switch-over is allowed to take more than half an hour in case of disaster or a terroristic attack? Wont this foil the purpose of the system at a time where it might especially urgently be needed to avoid further damages to European citizens?"
2) A possible security breach as:
"The serious security gap concerning the Network (the network provider Orange has in principle
access to the clear data of the SIS II, including alerts following article 99 CISA) is after two years
of discussions still not closed."
3) Austria and Germany conclude by asking when the Commission is going to "present a comprehensive project plan" and a "detailed budgetary estimate?" And in the light of this:
"how it is possible to fix a date for the entry into operation of the SIS II for the first quarter 2013 while most of the basic assumptions (e.g. test plan, test specifications, number of environments) are not yet defined?"
The Austrian-German intervention was discussed at the CATS (high-level Interior Ministry officials) on 5-6 July 2010 and the Commission was asked to prepare a "synthesis document for the Ministerial level" in response. This should be in time for the next CATS meeting and that of the "Friends of SIS II" (which also has a "Friends of SIS II - Sherpa group" to prepare meetings) at the end of September.
The start of operations of the new Agency for the operational management of large-scale JHA IT systems is planned for 2012 though it is still being discussed in the European Parliament and the Council and may come into being too late to rescue the SIS II as originally planned.
1. Austrian and German delegations: Further direction of SIS II (pdf)
2. Background: Statewatch Analysis: SIS II: fait accompli? Construction of EUs Big Brother database underway (pdf)
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