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Council of the European Union
Council moves quickly to get interoperable centralised database operative
6.6.17
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Among the issues to be discussed at the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on 8-9 June: "Ministers are expected to adopt conclusions on improving interoperability of information systems." (Council)

The Draft Council Conclusions on the way forward to improve information exchange and ensure the interoperability of EU information systems (LIMITE doc no: 9132-REV-2-17, pdf) draws on:

European Commission, Seventh progress report on an effective and genuine Security Union (COM(2017) 261 final, 16 May 2017, pdf), the High-Level Expert Group on Information Systems and Interoperability (HLEG) final report (pdf) and a Council discussion paper, LIMITE 8797-17, pdf).

Broad scope

While there are references to "terrorist attacks and other criminal acts", "serious crime" and "terrorist, crime-related and migratory challenges" the plan is to embrace all Justice and Home Affairs databases, existing and planned.

The Council is well aware that the Court of Justice in the European Union (CJEU) is much concerned about the mass collection and use of personal data held at the present (eg: the 2006 Data Retention Directive which is still in place despite being declared unlawful since its adoption).And it will be interesting to see the Court's reaction to a centralised database whose content is not limited to "terrorism and serious crime".

Crucial safeguards deleted

In the previous draft set of Conclusions (9132-REV-1-17, pdf) it states:

"WELCOMES the finding by the EDPS, in the annex to the report, that the main obstacles to sustainable interoperability arise from the current legal basis of the information systems rather than merely from the data protection principles and that any solution should fully comply with data protection principles, in particular the principle of purpose limitation and user's access rights." [emphasis added]

In the latest draft: in particular the principle of purpose limitation and user's access rights" is deleted.

Extending the database's scope to include Prüm

"CALLS ON Member States, as regards existing EU information systems, to fully implement and apply the legislation on the Schengen Information System (SIS), the Visa Information System (VIS), the European Dactyloscopy (Eurodac) and Prüm Decisions, and to use these information systems and feed databases covered by those instruments in order to fully exploit their potential"

The report by the High Level Experts Group (HLEG) did not foresee Prüm being included at this stage as it is based on national databases. It holds national vehicle registration data, DNA and fingerprints.

"ad-hoc" access and exchange

The Council wants to "maximise" the use of existing databases:

"in particular by establishing a central automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS) within SIS. A possible solution to allow the ad-hoc and reciprocal exchange of information between Member States whether they apply the Schengen acquis in full, not yet or partially or do not take part in it.." [emphasis added]

Invites the Commission to

"explore as soon as possible, after discussions among the relevant stakeholders about the possible need for the systematic recording of border crossings of all EU citizens, the proportionality and feasibility of such systematic recording, for example, in a dedicated database, and present its findings for discussion by the Council by the first quarter 2018" [emphasis added]

"undertake a feasibility study as a matter of priority for the establishment of a central EU
repository containing information on long-stay visas, residence cards and residence
permits, consider whether it is appropriate to include local border traffic permits
in such a repository, and present its findings for discussion by the Council by the end 2017"
[emphasis added]

"work towards creating a European search portal capable of searching in parallel all relevant EU systems in the areas of borders, security and asylum." [emphasis added]

"explore the future implementation of a shared biometric matching service for all types of biometric data and analyse its use for the purpose of flagging the existence of biometric
data from other systems.."
[emphasis added]

"explore the future establishment of a common identity repository" [emphasis added]

"undertake a feasibility study on a centralised mechanism for advance passenger
information (API)
, including the need for a centralised router, enabling the interested
Member States to have a one-stop-shop connectivity for airlines and providing API data to both national systems and central systems....

extending the feasibility study for the implementation of a centralised API router
and also analyse its use for passenger name records (PNR), enabling the interested Member States to have a one-stop-shop connectivity for airlines and providing PNR data to national systems once Member States have implemented the EU PNR Directive
[emphasis added]

Background:

Commission wants a quick march to interoperable, centralised EU databases by 2020 (Statewatch) and EU wastes no time welcoming prospect of Big Brother databases (Statewatch).

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