New EU Agency for managing large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice22 March 2012
by eub2 -- last modified 22 March 2012
A new agency for managing large-scale EU information systems was inaugurated on 22 March 2012 in Tallinn, Estonia, with the attendance of Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. Its main task will be to ensure that the Visa Information (VIS) and EURODAC systems operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Agency is due to become fully operational as of December 2012.
Why a new EU Agency?
The European Commission is responsible for managing a number of large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice. These systems facilitate information exchange between national authorities, thereby contributing to a secure environment and guaranteeing adequate protection of fundamental rights.
These systems need to be continuously available and kept technologically up-to-date. The Commission, the European Parliament and the Council decided that a dedicated Agency would be best equipped to contribute with the right balance of institutional relevance, specialisation and legitimacy towards end users.
The Regulation establishing the Agency (Regulation 1077/201) was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in October 2011.
What will be the tasks of the new Agency?
The core task of the Agency will be to keep the SIS II, VIS and EURODAC systems functioning 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ensuring the continuous, uninterrupted exchange of data between national authorities. The Agency will also be responsible for the adoption of measures necessary to ensure the security of the systems and the security of data, organising training for IT experts on the systems under its management, publishing reports and statistics and monitoring research relevant for the operational management of the systems.
The Agency will take full account of the need to maintain the complete separation of data in the three IT systems under its management. It will also ensure that security and data protection requirements are fully met. This will provide a more cost effective, secure and accountable solution than managing the systems in isolation.
Who will run the Agency?
The Agency was set up in the form of a Regulatory Agency. It is governed by a Management Board with one representative from each Member State and two from the European Commission. The countries associated with the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis and measures related to EURODAC will also participate in the Agency. The Agency will be assisted by advisory groups composed of representatives from Member States which participate in the IT systems and a representative of the Commission. Europol and Eurojust will also be able to attend these meetings within the remit of their competences.
Which IT systems will be managed by the Agency?
The IT Agency will initially be responsible for the operational management of three large-scale information technology (IT) systems developed by the European Commission in the area of freedom, security and justice:
EURODAC is an IT system for comparing the fingerprints of asylum seekers and irregular migrants. It facilitates the application of the Dublin II Regulation, which makes it possible to determine the Member State responsible for examining an asylum application. The Commission is currently responsible for the EURODAC central unit and for data transmissions via this system and will retain these responsibilities until the Agency becomes operational.
The Visa Information System (VIS) supports the implementation of the common visa policy and facilitates effective border control. It enables national authorities to enter and consult data on visa applications to enter the Schengen Area, including biometrics. The VIS started operations on 8 October 2011. The first consular posts connected to the system were those in North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia). The Commission is currently responsible for managing the VIS until the Agency becomes fully operational.
The second-generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) will facilitate the exchange of information on persons and objects between national border control authorities, police, customs, visa and judicial authorities throughout the Schengen Area. SIS II will take over from the existing Schengen Information System (SIS 1+), providing a more modern and up-to-date system with new and enhanced functionalities, such as the possibility of including biometric data. SIS II will therefore enhance security within the Schengen area. This system, which is due to enter into operations in 2013, will be managed directly by the Agency from that time onwards.
Where will the Agency be located?
The seat of the Agency will be in Tallinn (Estonia), while the operational management of the large-scale systems will be carried out in Strasbourg (France), with a backup site in Sankt Johann im Pongau (Austria).
When will it be operational?
The Agency is due to become fully operational as of December 2012. From that time onwards, it will be responsible for the operational management of EURODAC and VIS and will start preparations with a view to taking over operational management of SIS II in March 2013, once this system enters into operation.
Recruitment procedures are in progress. The initial priority will be to set up the technical units in Strasbourg that will take over the operational management of the systems as of 1 December 2012, as well as the backbone of the support units in Estonia, in particular, the administrative services, human resources management, finance and procurement and legal advice functions. The Agency's 2012 establishment plan provides for the recruitment of 75 staff members this year. An additional 45 people will be recruited in 2013 when the Agency is due to progressively move towards implementing the full range of tasks assigned to it.
Selection procedures for the Agency's Executive Director are in progress and it is expected that the successful candidate will take up his/her post in the autumn of 2012.
A medium term vision for the Agency
A dedicated, specialised Agency will be able to achieve important synergies and economies of scale, as all three existing IT systems will be under common management. After the start-up phase, the Agency will be able to gradually build expertise and know-how to eventually become a centre of excellence for the development and management of large scale IT systems in a policy area that supports the security and the free movement of people within the Union. Accordingly, should new IT systems be considered necessary to further uphold policy implementation in this area, their development and operation could, in the future, rely on the Agency's facilities and competencies.
Source: European Commission