The security system of the Schengen Zone was put in place to protect its external borders. The security network is currently made up of three essential systems that identify frauds and prevent dangerous individuals from entering the area. The three systems working to protect the security of the Schengen Area are:
- Visa Information System (VIS)
- Schengen Information System (SIS)
- European Dactyloscopy (EURODAC)
These three security mechanisms are managed by the eu-Lisa, the European Union’s Agency that provides technical support to make Europe safer. The eu-LISA manages large-scale integrated IT systems that maintain internal security in the Schengen countries and facilitate the exchange of visa data between its members.
The European Union and the members of the Schengen Zone have made the security of the region a priority. Therefore, the EU will implement ETIAS in 2021. The European travel and information authorization system, ETIAS, will determine traveler’s eligibility to visit the Schengen Area. ETIAS will be an entry requirement for citizens of visa-exempt countries. Those who wish to travel to Europe in 2021 will need to apply for an ETIAS travel authorization with a valid passport, an email address and a debit or credit card to pay for the ETIAS fee.
The ETIAS system will also be run by the eu-LISA. Travelers should note that all of the details provided on an ETIAS application will be contrasted against several databases including the VIS, SIS, EURODAC, Interpol, and Europol.
The Three Pillars of the Security System of the Schengen Zone
The Schengen Agreement abolished the internal borders for all its members enabling the free movement of people. However, securing its shared external borders has been and is a concern for the EU and all Schengen Member countries. The three systems: VIS, SIS, and Eurodac contribute to the security of the region.
Visa Information System (VIS)
The Visa Information System (VIS) allows the member states of the Schengen Zone to exchange visa data. It is a central IT system and a communication infrastructure that links the central system to national systems. VIS connects consulates in non-EU countries and all external border crossing points of the Schengen Area.
The purpose of VIS is to facilitate checks and the issuance of visas. Thanks to VIS, border guards can verify that a person presenting a visa is the rightful holder. VIS will identify fraudulent documents and take action to protect the Schengen Area.
VIS contributes to the following:
- Fights abuses: VIS will help fight and prevent fraudulent behaviors. For instance, some people engage in “visa shopping”, which occurs when an individual makes several visa applications to the other EU States when a first application has already been rejected.
- Protects travelers: using biometric technology, VIS is able to detect travelers who are using another person’s travel documents and protects them from identity theft.
- Helps with asylum applications: VIS contributes to determining which EU state is responsible for reviewing an asylum application.
- Enhances security: VIS helps in preventing, detecting and investigating terrorist offenses and other criminal activities.
This system works based on the data recorded in a central database. The data includes fingerprints scans and a digital photograph of the visa applicant, which is gathered in one place.
Schengen Information System (SIS)
The Schengen Information System is a large-scale information system. SIS is a basis for cooperation in law enforcement and protection of the external borders of the Schengen Area. How? SIS provides information to the police, migration, justice and other authorities in regards to missing people, criminals or criminal entities, and people who have the entry to the area forbidden. The main purpose of SIS is to preserve the internal security of the member states in the absence of internal border checks.
The SIS operates in 30 European countries, including the 26 EU Member States. The only countries not connected to SIS are Ireland and Cyprus.
SIS contributes to the security fo the Schengen Zone in the following ways:
- Enables border collaboration
- Supports law enforcement collaboration
- Increases vehicle registration collaboration
European Dactyloscopy (EURODAC)
EURODAC makes it easier for the EU States to determine which state is responsible for revising and asylum application by comparing fingerprint datasets. EURODAC has established an EU asylum fingerprint database. When an individual applies for asylum, no matter the country in the EU, their fingerprints are transmitted to the EURODAC central system. It is an essential tool which provides fingerprint comparison evidence to help determine which country should examine an asylum application made in the EU.
The EURODAC offers easy access to the asylum seekers and cross borders fingerprints data and it quickens the process of data communication.