Closing security gaps between information systems in EU

An interoperable framework will ensure border guards and police access to the right data

Dimitris Avramopoulos

The Parliament and the Council reached on Tuesday a political agreement on the Commission's proposal to close important security gaps by making EU information systems for security, migration and border management work together in a more intelligent and targeted way, the EU press service reported. This interoperable framework will ensure that border guards and police officers have access to the right information when and where they need it to perform their duties.

"Today we deliver on a quintessential piece of our security infrastructure. In the future, all the dots between our different information systems will be interlinked. This is the European Union at its best: empowering and supporting our border guards and police officers with the right tools to do their job and protect European citizens. Europeans expect to be kept safe in Europe, and today we increased our collective ability to do just that," Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said.

The new tools will allow the existing as well as future EU information systems, such as the Entry/Exit System (EES), the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) and European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS-TCN) to talk to each other, preventing important pieces of information from going undetected.

“This is about responding to calls from those at the frontline, police and border guards. It is not about creating one big database or collecting more data, but using existing information in a smarter and more targeted way to help law enforcement do their job, all while fully respecting fundamental rights,” Security Union Commissioner Julian King said. “Today we agreed to give law enforcement officials the right tools to help them catch criminals and better protect Europeans,” First VP Frans Timmermans added.

In essence, the new tools will help crosscheck existing data with one click, better detect identity fraud, improve access for law enforcement, and protect fundamental rights. A European search portal will allow border guards and police to carry out simultaneous checks of identity documents against all EU information systems on a single screen, in accordance with their existing access right. Officers will no longer have to verify documents against multiple databases, as within seconds they will have a complete and accurate picture.

Border guards and police will be able to better identify dangerous criminals thanks to the shared biometric matching service, which will use fingerprints and facial images to search across existing information systems, and a common identity repository, which will store biographical data of non-EU citizens. In addition, a multiple-identity detector will cross-check and immediately flag anyone who is using fraudulent or multiple identities.

Law enforcement officers will be able to consult EU information databases in a more efficient and secure way based on a two-step approach. Once the information searched by an officer matches information contained in one of the systems (i.e. gets a "hit"), he/she will be able to request more targeted access, in line with the specific rules for each system.

The two regulations will now need to be formally adopted by the Parliament and the Council. Once adopted, eu-LISA, the EU Agency responsible for the operational management of large-scale information systems in the area of freedom, security and justice, will be responsible for the development and the roll-out of the technical components that will make EU information systems interoperable.

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