What should every major information system know

Improving the efficiency of European databases and increasing their interoperability

The communication presented here focuses on the three main information systems currently in place in the European Union: SIS II, VIS, Eurodac. A brief description of the special features and objectives of these systems is followed by a summary of their respective use. Then various possible scenarios for a more efficient use of these systems and for the possible creation of new systems are presented. As the protection of individual rights remains a priority, it will then be examined whether the measures in question are proportionate and compatible with the protection of individual rights.


Communication from the European Commission of 24 November 2005 on improving the efficiency of European justice and home affairs databases and increasing their interoperability and synergies between them [COM (2005) 597 final - Not published in the Official Journal]


The Commission is presenting the abovementioned communication in response to repeated calls by the European Council and the Council of the European Union for proposals to improve the efficiency of European databases and to increase their interoperability and synergies between them. The need to make greater use of biometric features in this area was also highlighted.

The main aim of this communication is to

  • improve technical interoperability and synergies between the existing information systems (SIS II, VIS, Eurodac) in the field of Justice and Home Affairs (JAI);
  • to work out how these systems can support policies on the free movement of persons and the fight against terrorism and crime while respecting the protection of fundamental rights;
  • initiate an extensive debate on the long-term design and architecture of information systems.

Definition of terms

The term "interoperability" denotes the "ability of information systems and the operational processes they support to exchange data with one another and to enable the sharing of information and knowledge".

The term "networking" refers to the connection of devices with the goal of data transmission.

The term "synergy" is defined differently in technical, economic and organizational contexts. In technical terms, synergy is to be understood as a combination of several elements that positively influence one another. In economic terms, the term denotes an increase in the value of assets or economies of scale Finally, from an organizational point of view, synergy refers to the bundling of previously separated resources or the streamlining of the existing organizational structure with the aim of increasing efficiency.

The term "availability" refers to the principle that security authorities or Europol staff in one Member State should obtain the information they need to carry out their duties from another Member State when it is available there.

SIS II, VIS, Eurodac: use and purpose

The second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) is intended to help guarantee freedom of movement and security in the European Union at the same time, and also to improve the exchange of information between the Member States. The information in this system is used for the control of persons (at the external borders of the Union or in the respective national territory), for the issuing of visas and residence permits and for the cooperation of the police and judicial authorities in criminal matters.

The main purpose of the Visa Information System (VIS) is to help

  • improve the procedures for issuing visas;
  • to ensure the implementation of the common visa policy;
  • to improve consular cooperation with a view to averting threats to internal security and preventing so-called "visa shopping" *;
  • facilitate the fight against fraud;
  • facilitate the identification and return of illegal immigrants;
  • facilitate the application of the Dublin II Regulation.

As a cornerstone of the European asylum system, Eurodac is intended to help determine the Member State responsible for examining an asylum application under the Dublin II Regulation and to facilitate the application of the regulation.

Fight against terrorism and crime: shortcomings identified

First of all, it should be noted that all of the possibilities offered by the existing systems are not being used to their full extent. This applies in particular to the processing and exchange of data.

The limitations of the alphanumeric search *, which becomes more and more imprecise as the amount of data in the database increases, necessitates a personnel-intensive ex-post check, which is often not possible in the context of border control.

When applying for Schengen visas, the opportunities for bona fide people who travel frequently to expedite the processing of their applications are generally limited. In addition, if their travel documents are lost or stolen, they often have to go through complex procedures to obtain new travel documents.

Identifying illegal immigrants also remains difficult. As a rule, they do not carry any identity documents with them or use forged or falsified documents, which often makes the process of identification time-consuming and costly. When travel documents have been destroyed, there is currently no system available to the authorities to verify identity.

In addition, the application of the Dublin II Regulation appears to be inefficient in that there is currently no effective means for Member States to check whether an asylum seeker is in possession of a visa issued by another Member State in order to verify the identity of the person concerned and to determine the validity of the visa.

The fact that it is not possible to use asylum, immigration and visa-related data for internal security purposes is an obstacle to the good functioning of the existing information systems.

There seems to be a need to extend the identity and legality check to all categories of third country nationals. It is currently only carried out for third-country nationals who are subject to a visa requirement.

The monitoring of the entry and exit of third-country nationals is incomplete. Since entry and exit are not recorded in the VIS (as is the case in SIS II), it is not possible to identify persons who remain illegally in the EU.

The lack of biometric identification tools is a serious failure in the fight against terrorism and crime.

In the face of identity theft, the limitations of the current system, imposed by the lack of instruments for registering EU citizens at European level, have become clear.

After all, there is no comprehensive database that enables the identification of disaster victims and unknown bodies. Consideration was given to using an Interpol database for this purpose, although this cannot cover all cases.

Other possible developments

In order to effectively remedy the deficiencies outlined above, it seems essential to improve the use of the existing systems by:

  • better quality control in data collection;
  • a more coherent approach to the collection of categories of data and the use of the data;
  • increased usability;
  • launching a wider and more direct consultation with Member States;
  • exchange of best practice.

In addition, the existing and planned systems should be further developed in an efficient manner, in relation to three different aspects:

  • SIS II query for biometric features;
  • Extension of the asylum and immigration authorities' access to the VIS and SIS II information systems;
  • Extension of the access of the authorities responsible for internal security to the various information systems.

In the longer term, the following are also planned:

  • the establishment of a European automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS);
  • the establishment of an entry / exit registration system and the introduction of a regulation to facilitate border crossing for people who frequently cross the border;
  • the establishment of one or more European registers for travel documents and identity cards.

These various developments inevitably lead to changes in the architecture and organizational changes in the European information systems. As for the changes to the architecture first, the development of a service-oriented architecture should be sought for the following two reasons:

  • Achieving the greatest possible synergies and limiting investments to a realistic level;
  • flexible and cost-effective sharing of functions without the need to merge existing systems.

In order to achieve synergy effects, from an organizational point of view it is advisable to combine the routine management of these systems into a single organizational unit.

Human rights: data protection

In order to reconcile the aim of better identification of wanted persons with the protection of personal data, the principle of proportionality requires that the databases of the various information systems (Eurodac, immigration-related data of the SIS II, VIS) only be used by the authorities responsible for internal security may be queried if the crime committed by a criminal or terrorist is so reprehensible that querying a database in which persons without a criminal history are registered is justified.

With regard to the matching of DNA profiles, the restriction to a "hit / no hit" type of check, which compares the mere DNA profile (without any other personal information), enables the principle of proportionality to be respected A European register for travel documents and identity cards should only be considered if access is strictly limited and the consultation of the register is justified by an overriding interest of public security will be.

With all measures, it should be pointed out that strict monitoring by the responsible data protection authorities will be essential. In any event, the Commission will carry out an impact assessment of fundamental rights on possible future legislative proposals in accordance with Communication COM (2005) 172.


Proposal for a Council Framework Decision of 4 October 2005 on the protection of personal data processed in the framework of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters [COM (2005) 475 final. - Not published in the Official Journal - CNS / 2005/0202]

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 16 June 2004 - On improving access to information for law enforcement authorities [COM (2004) 429 final. - Not published in the Official Journal]

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 16 December 2003 - Transfer of Passenger Name Record (PNR): A cross-sectoral EU approach [COM (2003) 826 final - Not published in the Official Journal]

Directive 2002/58 / EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of July 12, 2002 on the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in electronic communications (data protection directive for electronic communications) [Official Journal L 201 of July 31, 2002]

Regulation (EC) No. 45/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2000 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data by the institutions and bodies of the Community and on the free movement of data

Directive 95/46 / EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of October 24, 1995 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of data [Official Journal L 281 of November 23, 1995]

Keywords of the act

  • Visa shopping: simultaneous submission of several applications for a visa in different member states
  • Alphanumeric: made up of digits (from 0 to 9) and letters (from a to z and A to Z) and less often of symbols

So see

Further information can be found on the following website:

"Freedom, Security and Justice" website of Directorate General JLS of the European Commission:

"Information society":


Last change: May 8th, 2006