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Encyclopedia > Schengen Information System

The Schengen Information System, also called “SIS”, is an information system used in some European countries, which can consult or record information on persons or objects. The data concern for example persons under warrant for arrest or object which have been lost. This information is shared between the participating countries, for the majority signatories of Schengen Agreement Application Convention (SAAC), in particular France, Germany, Belgium the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Since its creation, several other countries joined the system: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Greece, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Norway who signed SAAC. Currently the Schengen Information System is used by 15 countries. It should be noted that among them, only Iceland and Norway are not members of the European Union.

As for the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, which did not sign the SAAC, they can take part in the Schengen co-operation under the terms of the Treaty of Amsterdam which included the provisions of Schengen in the European Union, but these two countries had the choice to take part only in the provisions which they wished to apply. On the contrary, the 10 new Member States will have to apply this co-operation entirely. Ireland and the United Kingdom will thus take part only partially in the Schengen Information System when the technical conditions will allow this. They will not use the article 96 data, because they do not intend to implement the policy of freedom of movements of the persons at the European level. The Amsterdam Treaty (in full: Treaty of Amsterdam amending the Treaty of the European Union, the Treaties establishing the European Communities and certain related acts) which was signed on October 2, 1997, and entered into force on May 1, 1999, made substantial changes to the Treaty on European Union which...


General Description

In the SIS, information is stored according to the legislation of each country. There is more than fifteen million entries, containing following personal information:

  • Name and first name, the alias possible ones being recorded separately;
  • Possible objective and permanent physical characteristics;
  • First letter of the second first name;
  • Date and birthplace;
  • Sex;
  • Nationality;
  • If the person in question was armed;
  • If the person in question was violent;
  • Reason of the record;
  • Action to be taken.

As well as:

  • Weapons lost, stolen or diverted;
  • Delivered identity documents lost, stolen or diverted;
  • Lost, stolen or diverted blank identity documents;
  • Lost, stolen or diverted motor vehicles;
  • Bank notes lost, stolen or diverted;

A second technical version of the system is in preparation (SIS II), in order to include new types of data and to integrate the new Member States of the Union. The system would be opened with a greater number of institutions, for example the legal authorities, Europol and the security services. Personal data could be read on one personal assistant (This is a futuristic vision, but this type of implementation remains under responsibility and technical possibilities of each Member State) in all Europe, by the police force and the customs during the identity checks. Some would like to benefit from these technical changes to turn this system into an investigation system, but a great number of Member States want this system to remain a system of police checks, leaving to Europol this role of investigation. Europol (the name is a contraction of European Police Office) is the European Unions criminal intelligence agency. ... Europe is conventionally considered one of the seven continents of Earth which, in this case, is more a cultural and political distinction than a physiographic one, leading to some dispute as to Europes actual borders. ...


The Treaty of Rome from March 25, 1957 and the treaty instituting the economic Union of the Benelux countries of February 3, 1958, carried from their inception the goal of free movement of persons and goods. The Benelux countries, as a reduced entity, will be able to more quickly implement this integration. For the European Community, the priority will initially focus on the economic aspects and it will be necessary to wait until after the signing of the agreement of Saarbrücken between France and Germany on July 13, 1984, before seeing any significant reductions of the controls on persons at the borders between these two states. The Treaty of Rome signing ceremony Signatures in the Treaty The Treaty of Rome refers to the treaty which established the European Economic Community (EEC) and was signed by France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg on March 25, 1957. ... March 25 is the 84th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (85th in leap years). ... 1957 (MCMLVII) was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Satellite image of the Benelux countries Benelux Benelux is an economic union in Western Europe comprising three neighbouring monarchies, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. ... February 3 is the 34th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 1958 (MCMLVIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Saarbrücken [] is the capital of the Saarland Bundesland in Germany. ... July 13 is the 194th day (195th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 171 days remaining. ... 1984 (MCMLXXXIV) was a leap year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

Joined by the three member states of Benelux, these five countries signed the Schengen Agreement on June 14, 1985 for the purpose of gradually establishing free movement of persons between them. Although seeming simple, this presented a number of difficulties. The tradeoff for this freedom is that each state must agree to relinquish a portion of its autonomy and trust its partners to carry out the controls necessary to its own safety.  Schengen Agreement members  Signatories (agreement not yet implemented)  Expressed interest in joining A monument of the Schengen Agreement in Schengen A typical Schengen border crossing with no border control post, as here between Germany and Austria This article deals with the agreement and convention. ... June 14 is the 165th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (166th in leap years), with 200 days remaining. ... This article is about the year. ...

In order for the reduction of interior border checks to be done without causing a deficit of safety, in particular since Europe already faced a real terrorist threat, compensatory measures were to be implemented.

Drafting the text took five years. It was only on June 19, 1990 that the five precursory states who signed the Schengen Agreement Application Convention of June 14, 1985 (SAAC), began to be gradually joined by Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Austria and the five Scandinavian Passports Convention countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. June 19 is the 170th day of the year (171st in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 195 days remaining. ... This article is about the year. ... June 14 is the 165th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (166th in leap years), with 200 days remaining. ... This article is about the year. ...

The Schengen Information System today

Legal aspects and technical characteristics

Since March 25, 2001, fifteen States apply the SAAC and have lifted police controls at their internal borders. The compensatory measures form the main part of the SAAC but the principal one, the backbone of Schengen, is the creation of a common information system to the signatory States: the Schengen Information System (the SIS). This system is an innovator as regards police co-operation, legally speaking as well as technically: March 25 is the 84th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (85th in leap years). ... 2001: A Space Odyssey. ...

  • legally first of all, by the recognition of the legal force of the records transmitted by the Schengen partners, with the commitment of each State to respect the action to be taken prescribed by the description, as well as insertion, right from the origin, of a device able to ensure the respect of the personal freedoms and the personal data protection.
  • technically by the complete creation of an information processing system, connected permanently to extremely different various national applications, having to ensure the update in real time of the national databases. The sharing of personal data with delegation of powers as for the application of the actions to be taken could only be made on the basis of reciprocal confidence, which rests itself on the transparency.

To do this, these States committed by signing the convention to en sure the correctness, the up to date status and the legality of the integrated data, and to use these data only for the finality stated by the relevant articles of convention. These commitments are supplemented by consultation procedures between the States; in particular when for reasons of national law, or of opportunity, an action to be taken cannot be carried out on a given territory. This consultation gives the possibility to national authorities to expose the reasons of right or fact about a record and, on the other hand, to inform a requesting State of the reasons for which the action to be taken would not be applied. This procedure applies in particular for records from foreigners considered as undesirable by a country, but holder of a residence permit delivered by another country, for international warrants for arrest, or for cases of State security.

Being an information processing system dealing with the personal data, the preoccupation of protection of the private life existing in the countries founders on the matter is transposed naturally in the text of the convention, which enacts that the existence of a data law is a precondition to the implementation of convention in the countries. Thus, each national authority (for France the National Commission of data processing and freedoms or “CNIL”) is in charge of the control of the national part of SIS. The central system, essentially international although under French responsibility, could not remain without control. The Convention thus created a common control authority, independent of the States, and composed of representatives from the national authorities. It takes care of the strict application of the provisions relating to the personal data protection.

At technical level, the participating countries adopted a data-processing star architecture made up of a central site containing the reference database, known as C-SIS, for which the responsibility is entrusted to the French Republic by the CAAS, and a site by country, known as N-SIS, containing a copy of the data base. These various bases must be identical permanently. All together C-SIS and N-SISes constitutes the SIS.

Data managed by the SIS

An agreement was found on the definition of the descriptions to be integrated in this system. They concern the persons:

  • Required for extradition;
  • Undesirable on the territory of a participating State;
  • Minor of age, mentally ill patients, and persons missing or in danger with an aim of ensuring their own protection;
  • Required like witness, quoted to appear or for notification of judgement;
  • Suspected of taking part in serious offences and having to be the subject of checks or control.

In addition are concerned the following objects:

  • Motor vehicles to supervise control or seize;
  • Banknotes;
  • Blank or delivered stolen documents of identity;
  • Fire arms.

By the communication of these data, each State places at the disposal of its partners the elements allowing them to ensure for its account, and on the basis of its own information, the share of safety that it delegates to them. A strong technical constraint, aiming at ensuring the update of SIS in a five minutes maximum, ensures the correctness of the data.

Considering that a system is worth only by the use which is made of it, France, for the insertion of the records in of SIS, chose an automated solution, extracting them from the large national databases. This automation limits to the minimum the human interventions, usually generating errors and waste of time. The French records are thus transmitted to the countries participating in SIS, in a very short time.

In the same spirit, France decided to couple the query of the system, by the end-users of the national data bases, with the SIS, without causing an extra load of work for the end-user. Thus, without specific additional operation, the police officer querying the database of the wanted persons (FPR) or the database of the stolen vehicles (FVV) will obtain a response at the level of the Schengen States at the same time as the response at the national level.

The discoveries carried out by the end-users on the basis of SIS records implies mandatory the application of the measurements envisaged by the action to be taken, indicated by the requesting country. The operation of SIS thus generates an exchange of information between the services of the participating States.

The linguistic problem brought the creation of particular procedures which describe, according to pre-established forms, the way in which the exchanges must proceed, as well as the creation, in each country, of an office particularly in charge of this new international form of cooperation. This service, single contact point by country, ensures the transmission between the French and foreign services of the all relevant information allowing the execution of the measure to be taken, and their translation, took the name of SIRENE (Additional Information Required for the National Entry). After each discovery, the SIRENE exchange, by its own communication network, forms of notification of discovery and further information which, although essential to the good continuation of the investigations and procedures in progress, cannot appear in the records which are the SIS.

Police Co-operation and legal mutual assistance

Beside the SIS and the SIRENE offices, whose intervention are directly dependent, the Schengen convention instituted a police co-operation and a legal mutual assistance which usefully complete these operational dispositions. The police co-operation covers in particular:

  • assistance for purposes of prevention and search for punishable facts (article 39)
  • right for cross border surveillance allowing the continuation of a police surveillance in another Schengen country (article 40)
  • right for cross border pursuit which prevents that an individual author of an inflagrante delicto does not owe his immunity to the fact of crossing a border which from now on is not controlled any more (article 41)
  • finally the communication of information, significant for the repression or the prevention of inflagrante delicto or threats for the order and public safety (article 46)

The legal mutual assistance envisages in particular, the possibility of transmitting directly certain parts of procedure by postal way to the persons being on the territory of other States; to transmit requests for legal mutual assistance directly between legal authorities; finally to transmit the execution of a criminal judgement to a contracting part on the territory of which one of its nationals took refuge. In addition, the convention compares the inscription of a warrant for arrest in the SIS to a request for provisional arrest for extradition, which causes to ensure the immediate placement of the individuals under extradition detention.

Bilan and the evolution of SIS

An undeniable success

After more than 11 years of existence, the system having been opened to the end-users on March 26, 1995, this double legal and technical challenge proved to be a success. The SIS is today the most effective and most powerful system of police co-operation thanks to its extremely short time of actualization, its ease of use, and the fact that all police forces within the participating countries have a direct and immediate access to the database. Provided initially, at least by certain countries, mainly with records of undesirable foreigners, an increase in the records for international/european warrant of arrest, as well as an increase in the descriptions of objects can currently be observed. It contains more than thirteen million records. The operational results obtained are in accordance with the efforts made to reach a satisfactory functioning of this complex entity which is the SIS. One can note in particular that during the first ten years of existence, it made it possible to stop on the territory of the other partners more than 2,000 individuals being wanted with a warrant for arrest from the French justice, and on the other side stopping in France approximately 1,900 criminals sought by the other Schengen countries. March 26 is the 85th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (86th in leap years). ... 1995 (MCMXCV) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

Evolution towards SIS II

A second technical version of this system (SIS II), is currently under development under the responsibility of the European Commission. Some would like that it becomes a system of investigation, thus modifying its original finality of a check tool. To justify this evolution, the current system was criticized because of its limitation with 18 connections. This limitation has no technical reason, tests proved the ability of the current system to sustain the traffic produced by 30 countries, but is a political issue, as the Counsel decided to limit this number of connections on the SIS 1+ (modification due to overcome the Year 2000 problem and allow the connection of the 5 Nordic States rapidly) to 18 connections. Some technical responsible in charge of the system however estimate that the current system could have evolved to manage the new countries without an overall recasting. See for example report/ratio of the French Senate on the recasting of SIS, p. 14. Would the Council have chosen to follow the smooth evolution path from SIS 1+ to SIS II, the SIS II would already be operational and the new Membre States could connect their system wheever they are ready. The critics of the project of recasting put also ahead the flexibility of the current system, although it already knew several evolutions. They criticize the risks of delay and the significant cost of the draft prepared by the Commission. The improvement of the SIS also passes, according to wishes' of the European political leaders by a greater accessibility to the data by all the services contributing to interior security. These accesses, which will soon be open for them, do not depend, for the majority, of the system itself but of the management of the access in the participating countries themselves.


Some see in this concentration of information by the governments a threat against the private life. The SIS was the target many protests, in particular of July 18 at July 28, 2002 when 2000 activists of No Border Network expressed themselves in Strasbourg, where the C.SIS (Centre of the Schengen Information System) is located. Many fears that the second version of SIS does include photographs, fingerprints and DNA fingerprints, which could be available towards authorities and organizations for which this information was not intended when collected. However the drafts prepared by the Commission do not envisage officially the inclusion of DNA fingerprints Critics also worry that the database may in reality include people because of their political viewpoints or their participation in anti-government political protests, even if the information in the database in under the field relating to violence.

External links

  • European Judicial Network, Title IV, The Schengen Information System, Article 92 - 119
  • Noborder critique of the SIS
  • The Schengen Information System
  • The Schengen Information System II



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