EC Tightens Database Ties to Fight Terrorism

The European Commission adopts measures that will help fight terrorism and serious crime by opening up development of, and access to, common databases.

The European Commission last week adopted measures that will help fight terrorism and serious crime by opening up development of, and access to, common databases.

The databases in question are the VIS (Visa Information System), the SIS (Schengen Information System) and EURODAC (a database containing fingerprints of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants).

One of the adopted proposals grants access to the VIS database to both member states responsible for internal security as well as to Europol as they seek to prevent, detect and investigate terrorist offenses and other serious crimes.

EC Vice President Franco Frattini, commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, said in a statement that keeping up to date is essential when it comes to fending off post-Sept. 11 terrorist attacks such as those in Madrid and London.

"It is essential in the fight against terrorism and organized crime for the relevant services of the Member States and relevant bodies of the European Union, such as Europol, to have the fullest and most up-to-date information if they are to perform their tasks properly and effectively," Frattini said.

However, he added, access to that information cannot include trampling on the "fundamental rights" of individuals.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more about how the London terrorist attack was documented in online photos.

In order to ensure both the free movement of individuals as well as a high level of security, the EC has given top priority to developing the VIS database as a system to exchange visa data between Member States.

The adopted proposal stipulates that authorities responsible for internal security in Member States should have access to VIS in the course of their duties, as long as theyre subject to strict compliance with rules governing protection of personal data.

The EC is also considering initiatives such as establishing a system to monitor entry and exit, as well as a system to make it easier for frequent travelers to cross external borders.

One option is the creation of a data bank of fingerprints, aka the European criminal AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System).

Such a system is distinct from EURODAC, a database that has kept track of the fingerprints of anyone over the age of 14 who applies for asylum in the EU—except for Denmark, for now—and in Norway and Iceland since January 2003.

Denmark and Switzerland have recently signed agreements to make EURODAC applicable within their borders as well.

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