EU: "Interoperability": Plans to link all Justice & Home Affairs databases into one centralised system

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"Interoperability": Plans to link all Justice & Home Affairs databases into one centralised system
- repeated references to migration, internal security and terrorism
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On 22 June 2007 the European Council agreed: "the European Council invites the Commission to prepare, as soon as possible, draft legislation enacting the proposals made by the High Level Expert Group on interoperability." And see: Council moves quickly to get interoperable centralised database operative (Statewatch News) and Roadmap to enhance information exchange and information management including interoperability solutions in the Justice and Home Affairs area(LIMITE doc no: 9368-REV-1-17, pdf)

On 12 December the European Commission put forward proposals to link all Justice and Home Affairs databases into one centralised system: Security Union: Commission closes information gaps to better protect EU citizens (press release, pdf) covering: "security, border and migration management." The plans are set out in two proposed Regulations:

And see:

Staff Working Document - Part 1 (COM SWD, 473, pdf)
Staff Working Document - Part 2(COM SWD, 473, pdf)

Equating terrorism and migration

The latter proposal opens with the following statement:

"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. EU citizens expect external border controls on persons, and checks within the Schengen area, to be effective, to enable effective management of migration and to contribute to internal security. These challenges have brought into sharper focus the urgent need to join up and strengthen in a comprehensive manner the EU’s information tools for border management, migration and security." [emphasis added throughout]

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has expressed the following view:

"We are concerned that repeatedly referring to migration, internal security and fight against terrorism almost interchangeably brings the risk of blurring the boundaries between migration management and fight against terrorism."

See: "Reflection Paper on the interoperability of information systems in the area of Freedom, Security and Justice" (17 November 2017, pdf)

It might be thought the this emotive conflation of migration, internal security and terrorism were the product of the Commissioner for Migration, Citizenship and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos and Commissioner for the Security Union, Julian King. While presented in their names the agreed proposals are adopted by the College of Commissioners as a whole.

The first stage targets borders and migration and the second all the police databases including those currently stored at national level

In stage one the existing "centralised" databases are:

  • Schengen Information System (SIS) including surveillance, alerts on persons (e.g. refusal of entry) and objects (lost or stolen documents, vehicles). In addition it is proposed this is extended to cover "return decisions and inquiry checks".
  • Eurodac fingerprint database of asylum applicants and third country nationals who have "crossed external borders irregularly".
  • Visa Information System (VIS) data on short-stay visas.

Plus three new "centralised" databases under recently approved or under discussion:

  • Entry/Exit System (EES) entry and exit of third country nationals visiting the Schengen area for short stays
  • European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) automated system covering visa-exempt nationals ahead of travel to the Schengen area
  • European Criminal Record Information System for third country nationals (ECRIS-TCN) convictions handed down in national courts.

The deliberate targeting of third country nationals is openly stated:

"These six systems are complementary and — with the exception of the Schengen Information System (SIS) — exclusively focused on third-country nationals. The systems support national authorities in managing borders, migration, visa processing and asylum, and in fighting crime and terrorism."

In addition data will be added from Interpol's stolen and lost travel documents (SLDT) andEuropol data for the ETIAS.


"In addition to these primary operational objectives, this proposal will also contribute to facilitating the technical and operational implementation by Member States of existing and future new information systems."

Second stage: adding existing systems

"National information systems and decentralised EU information systems are outside the scope of this initiative. Provided that the necessity will be demonstrated, decentralised systems such as those operated under the Prüm framework, the Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive and the Advance Passenger Information Directive may at a later stage be linked up to one or more of the components proposed under this initiative."

The Prum nationally-based systems contain: DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registrations.

A Footnote says the Council wants the customs systems added.

In addition to the above, national systems include: the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) and Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs).

Building the centralised EU-wide database

The proposal says there are "four interoperabilty components". In fact there is one strictly "interoperable" component based on existing systems:

  • The European search portal (ESP) which enables "the simultaneous query of multiple systems" listed above.

However, the following three EU state centralised initiatives are entirely new

  • Shared biometric matching service (BMS): to search for biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) in a common platform.
  • Common Identity Repository (CIR): storing biographical and biometric identity data of third country nationals in five databases currently to be included (the SIS is excluded because it is too complex). But note the proposal is silent on the future inclusion of data, biometrics and profiles on EU citizens when the national systems are incorporated.
  • Multiple-identity detector (MID)

See also:

Interoperability and EU databases: Big Brother takes shape (Statewatch News)

Council: EU JHA agencies want access to all fingerprints, palm prints and facial images held under interoperability plans (Statewatch News)

Council, Europol and "expert group" press on with plans to boost "information exchange and information management" (Statewatch News)

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