After police, customs and immigration offices, numerous non-police authorities are now connected to Europe’s largest database for security purposes. All Schengen states now have to implement three new regulations. Surprisingly, there is resistance in Switzerland. In the end, the country may even leave the network.
With the implementation of three new regulations, some 2,000 additional German federal, state and local authorities will be connected to the Schengen Information System (SIS II). This is what the German Ministry of the Interior wrote in its response to a minor enquiry in August this year. At that time, it was said that „no reliable estimate could be made“ of the number of new authorised persons. In a new answer, the Ministry is now becoming more specific.
SIS II is the largest European database used for 25 years by border, police, customs or immigration authorities and secret services. At present, more than 90 million persons and objects are listed in the SIS II for search or refusal of entry. Most of the entries come from Italy, France and Germany, where mostly police authorities query the SIS II, as well as customs, migration authorities or registration offices.
Indirect connection for leisure sports associations
This circle will now be significantly extended with the implementation of three new EU regulations on the SIS II legal framework. In Germany, for example, bodies for watercraft or shipping offices at federal and state level, the Federal Aviation Authority with its departments are to be included in the SIS network. In future, the German embassies will be connected and allowed to independently enter return decisions and entry bans for rejected asylum seekers in SIS II.
At the end of the multi-year procedure, the weapons authorities will be linked to the SIS, where they will be able to search for firearms for example. Citizenship and judicial authorities will be connected at a later stage.
Private licensing offices for leisure sports will also be integrated, including associations for aviation and model flying or parachuting as well as the General German Automobile Club. However, they will not be allowed to use the SIS directly, but only with a diversion via police authorities.
Working group with 94 employees
The new regulations provide not only access for new users, but also extended rights for existing ones. The police agency Europol, for example, will have access to all categories of alerts, and the judicial authority Eurojust and the border agency Frontex can now also use alerts in the SIS II.
The German Federal Government must implement the SIS recast by the end of 2021. To this end, several authorities under the leadership of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) set up a working group with 94 staff two years ago, two thirds of whom are private service providers. On the part of the authorities, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees and the Federal Office of Administration are involved. The group is responsible for technical interfaces, designs training programmes for the newcomers and also implements them.
The BKA will receive € 68.5 million for the working group from the Ministry of the Interior until 2024, part of which the EU Commission will finance from the Internal Security Fund. The BKA intends to use it to finance studies on the implementation of requirements of the new regulations.
Trouble from Switzerland
In addition to most EU Member States (except Ireland and Cyprus), Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland participate in SIS II. As Schengen states, they cannot participate in the decision-making process of the new EU law, but can only accept or reject it as a complete package.
It was only in mid-September that the National Council in Switzerland dealt with the implementation of the new regulations and narrowly voted against it. The tip of the scales was the Social Democratic Party, which abstained throughout, thus helping the Greens and the People’s Party to achieve a dissenting majority.
For the first time since Switzerland joined the EU 16 years ago, there is now a rejection. However, the voting process is not yet over. The Council of States, which together with the National Council forms the Federal Assembly, could approve the regulations. Subsequently, the National Council will be asked to approve the ordinances again in the course of the „settlement of differences“ between the two chambers. If the Social Democrats maintain their abstention, Switzerland would have to leave the Schengen area.