Estonia-based agency eu-LISA is responsible for managing the EU's IT systems in the area of home affairs ©BELGA/MONKEY 

It takes more than barriers and man power to protect the EU's borders and ensure the free movement of goods, services and people between member states. The EU has developed IT systems to make it easier for member states to exchange vital information. These systems will now be managed by new EU agency eu-Lisa, located in Estonia. Portuguese MEP Carlos Coelho, who visited the agency recently, welcomed that these systems were finally being managed at EU level in the interest of Europe.

The EU has developed large scale IT systems to allow national border guards, police, customs and judicial authorities to exchange and compare information in their databases, such as visa and biometric data or asylum requests. These systems must function 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


About the agency


Launched on 1 December 2012, eu-LISA is based in Tallinn, although operational management is done in Strasbourg and there is also a backup site in Sankt Johan im Pongau in Austria.


Previously these IT systems had been managed by France at the request of the other member states, but Parliament has campaigned since 2001 to have them run at EU level rather than at the intergovernmental level.


Responsibilities


The agency is responsible for running the EU's three IT systems in the area of home affairs. This includes the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II), one of the largest information systems for public security in the world; Eurodac, a database of asylum seekers' fingerprints; and the Visa Information Systems, which allows countries that are in the Schengen area to exchange visa data. It is up to eu-LISA to make sure the systems are operational around the clock, according to data security and data protection requirements.


Challenges ahead


Mr Coelho, a member of the EPP group, headed a delegation from the civil liberties committee that visited the agency in Tallinn on 29 and 30 April. This was just before eu-LISA was due to take on full responsibility for the operational management of SIS II on 9 May.


He stressed it was important to recruit the best professionals in Europe, maintain a strong relationship with member states and have a good communication campaign to inform people in the EU about SIS II.