First Issue of eu-LISA's Digital Newsletter

The eu-LISA Bits & Bytes provides an overview of the Agency's recent progress and the state-of-play on the development and management of the large-scale IT systems that govern the Schengen Area's internal security.

In this issue:

… and more.

Past & future editions

eu-LISA in the First Half of 2020

The Agency's main priorities in 2020 are ensuring a high level of performance and availability for the existing large-scale IT systems (Eurodac, SIS, VIS), implementing their recast requirements, as well as continously developing the new systems (EES, ETIAS, ECRIS-TCN).


Business continuity guaranteed and all systems available
Though the systems’ availability has been unaffected by COVID-19, the usage of Eurodac, SIS and VIS in the Member States has been impacted and a notable dip in the amount of "traffic" has been registered. Eurodac has seen a reduction in usage close to 70%, whilst in April SIS was used at roughly 20% of its usual volume. VIS was the hardest hit with 90% less usage than on average during the near to total travel ban period but is since mid-May slowly back on the rise again.
The pandemic has however affected the way we work, with the majority of our staff in teleworking regime, but it has not managed to disrupt our commitment to and progress on the existing Large-Scale IT Systems we run and maintain.


In the initial 6 months of 2020, the Agency continued to work with the Member States towards their integration with the ITSM Framework. In February, the 2019 Release 2 of Eurodac, entered into operation. This now means that the main Eurodac servers have been updated with the most recent security patches. Further to that, the optimisation of the switchover and switchback processes has been improved so that it can now be performed with less human resources.

The first half of the year saw work with the Member States continue to address the level of data consistency checks and facilitating their access to AFIS. Furthermore, patches have been applied to the system to enhance performance in the processing of CUD messages. Given the unforeseen circumstances, priority has though been given to keeping the environments available for the Member States and to supporting the execution of planned campaigns.

Time and effort, from January to June, was put into increasing the capacity of the BMS up to 85 million records within 2020. The Agency also worked closely with Bulgaria and Romania and successfully completed the compliance-testing phase, which brings them close to being fully integrated into active use. Last but not least, the planned 2020 Release 1 was finalised and the switchover to BCU was performed successfully on 30 June.


Work continues with the implementation of EES and ETIAS despite COVID-19
The indicative date of entry into operation for the Entry/Exit System (EES) is February 2022 and end of 2022 for the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). A detailed implementation plan for both systems is monitored and refined in close collaboration with the Member States in the EES-ETIAS Advisory Group and other related governing bodies. The plan foresees making the EES Central System available to the Member States to initiate testing at the end of 2020
Work is on track and the Agency continues with the implementation of the EES Central System (within the signed Framework Agreement). A tender process for the shared Biometric Matching System (sBMS) was concluded in April 2020 and has been followed up with the drafting of technical specifications. In parallel, technical preparations are being made for the amendment of the Visa Information System (VIS) and an upgrade of the VIS network bandwidth that will also be used by EES.


Takeover of the management of the ECRIS system from DG Just in April
eu-LISA took over the operational management of the ECRIS Reference Implementation (RI) from DG-JUST on 14 April 2020. This is the first system that eu‑LISA operates in the Justice domain. The takeover marks the first milestone in the development of ECRIS-TCN, a new centralised hit/no-hit large-scale IT system to supplement the existing EU criminal records database (ECRIS) on non-EU nationals convicted in the European Union.


New SIS II Release Successfully Deployed in January
SIS II acts as an information sharing system for all the countries that use it and holds information in the form of "alerts". Each Person alert can contain biographical information such as name, date of birth, gender and nationality. SIS II can also store fingerprints and photographs of the person an alert is related to. In addition, the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), the functionality for SIS II (initially introduced in March 2018) has been enriched with search on slaps – an alternate method of collecting flat fingerprints that helps prevent mistakes or fraud.

Procurement Procedures

Biometric Matching Service

Tender process for the Shared Biometric Matching Service (sBMS) concluded in April

sBMS will be developed by a consortium formed by Idemia Identity & Security SAS and Sopra Steria Benelux SA/NV with an estimated total value of 302,55 million EUR + VAT. The Framework Contract (FwC) covers the implementation of the central Biometric Matching System (BMS) for EES, its transition into operations, followed by corrective, adaptive, preventive, perfective and evolutionary maintenance as well as associated transversal services, support to Member States training and handover to the Contracting Authority and/or the next contractor. The contract also includes foreseen evolutions for the future integration of ECRIS-TCN, Eurodac, SIS II and VIS with the central BMS in the context of Interoperability. This integrated approach is expected to drive economies of scale in the Systems cost of ownership.

Transversal Engineering Framework

Call for Tenders for Transversal Engineering Framework launched in February

The call, with an estimated total value of EUR 990 million (+ VAT), covers the design, support, provision and testing of core business systems and interoperability components, as well as the design and provision of infrastructure for new systems. With four distinct lots, this "Transversal" approach, a new way of procuring for the Agency, aims to create a framework in which several contractors can work together, following common standards and practices, to create and deliver in an interdependent-systems environment. The collaboration between contractors that ensues from having to set clear responsibilities between themselves and agreeing to shared working methodologies will improve the coherence and transparency of the system deliverables. The transversal approach was adopted in order to further open the sourcing pool of the Agency, and reduce the likelihood of vendor ‘lock-in’.

2020 Outlook, in Light of the Pandemic and the 35th Anniversary of the Schengen Agreement


35 years after the Schengen agreement was signed we now have perspective from stepping back and seeing how indispensable freedom of movement has become (…) eu‑LISA is at the heart of the implementation of the new information architecture for internal security and border management, which will bring the Schengen Area into a new stage of its evolution.
This is a huge enterprise. Success is possible only if we join our efforts with Member States and our partner agencies. Today we celebrate Schengen Agreement successes and, at the same time, we look to the future of Schengen with hope and the belief that we will be able to sustain and develop it further.
Krum Garkov, Executive Director

See the full video statement / 15 June 2020.

Photo by S.P.

Meet our new Deputy Executive Director

"The success of the Agency in setting up and managing all its critical systems speaks about the professionalism and dedication of its people. I feel privileged to be a part of eu‑LISA and to contribute to its important mission", said Luca Tagliaretti, when arriving in Tallinn on March 15, to join the eu‑LISA team, exactly 24 hours before the COVID-related lockdown of many EU borders.

Everything was new for me and I had to quickly learn the ropes without the possibility of meeting the rest of the colleagues face to face. Despite that, integration was almost seamless and I feel now fully integrated in the team, he recalls.

Before eu-LISA, Mr Tagliaretti led the Technical Centre of the Central Bank's Counterfeit Deterrence Group (CBCDG), a global association of central banks that deploys technologies to deter the use of digital equipment to counterfeit currencies.

Prior to that, he worked for at the European Central Bank (ECB), being involved in a range of activities and a variety of roles. His principle focus was on setting the common quality and technical standards for banknote production.

In his new eu-LISA role, he is part of top management decision-making to advance the Agency further in its enlarged role in supporting the Member States and European Union Institutions.

He acknowledges the coming months will be very busy and challenging. In addition to ensuring the continuous management of the existing systems and developing of ongoing projects, the Agency will start to take on responsibilities for new initiatives and, at the same time, welcome a significant number of new colleagues.

"In this critical time, more than ever, we see how European cooperation is indispensable to successfully address the challenges of our interconnected society. In this respect, the work of eu‑LISA is essential in guaranteeing the functioning of the Schengen Area, the protection of our external borders and freedom of movement. I look forward to working closely with the dedicated and experienced staff of the Agency to build a safer Europe", he added.

Training

Among its many activities, eu-LISA provides tailored training activities, which include hands-on sessions, live demo presentations, large and small-scale workshops and webinars, as well as an e-learning portal.

In 2019, the Agency delivered 25 training sessions (64% face‑to‑face, 36% webinars/ eLearning), that were attended by over 600 participants from all Member States using the large-scale IT systems. The positive feedback received for last year's pilot project encouraged eu‑LISA to shift all its curricula to the new profile-based methodology, which foresees grouping trainees based on their common background and/ or the roles they perform at national level.

With the development of the EES central system, the Agency has already prepared relevant training courses to bolster capacity building within the Member States and partner agencies, such as Frontex and Europol.

The first eu-LISA training course of 2020, Eurodac: Multi-Spectrum Imaging (MSI) Scanner Usage Training, was held in Stockholm, Sweden, delivered jointly with the Swedish Migration Agency.

Read more about the Entry/Exit Central System Simulator e-course, launched in April.

Coming soon: A series of Train the Trainers courses for IT operators on Eurodac, SIS and VIS, delivered jointly with sister agency CEPOL.

Awareness Package

How do large-scale IT systems facilitate the implementation of the right to free movement within the Schengen Area? What are the specifics of eu‑LISA's daily activities?

Our brand new awareness package, #discoverEULISA is a one-stop shop that presents eu‑LISA and its business areas in a fresh and interactive way. The mini-website contains everything you need to know about the various activities of eu‑LISA as well as material and resources, which you can use in your work and share.

Each of the large-scale systems in eu‑LISA's mandate has its own area, as do Interoperability, Reporting and Statistics, Member States Training and R&D.

Data Quality & Data Protection

To be able to ultimately achieve Interoperability, one of the priorities of the Agency is to ensure a high level of quality with respect to the data that is entered into the systems. Since the owners of the data are the Member States, eu‑LISA has closely collaborated with them for several years on enhancing data quality. This requires a coherent approach among the systems' users towards quality assurance measures:


  • A data quality team has been established within the Agency to regularly check the performance of each of the Agency's systems;
  • Since 2016, monthly data quality reports are generated for the Member States, allowing them to update, revise and adjust the standardisation criterion;
  • As of April 2017, enhanced reports covering alerts on persons are available. These allow Member States to perform checks on their data and, if necessary, to correct it;
  • The Agency also organises Data Quality Workshops, scheduled four times per year.

Since the beginning of 2020, in close cooperation with the Croatian and German EU Presidencies, the Commission and partner Agencies, eu‑LISA is leading comprehensive discussions on having further standardisation in certain technical and operational areas.

Our work is not yet done though, we are striving for automated data quality control mechanisms and common data quality indicators for all large-scale IT systems in our remit, for both biometric and alphanumeric data.


Moreover, data protection measures have been put in place to monitor the access to the systems and to ensure the principle of purpose limitation.

Strict rules and strict monitoring tools mean that:

  • Only certain authorities have the right to have access to the systems and only for specific purposes;
  • The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) ensures that an audit of eu‑LISA's personal data processing activities is carried out at least every three years in relation to each system;
  • eu-LISA ensures that all data processing operations are logged in each system to allow checking the admissibility of requests, monitoring of data integrity and security, as well as the lawfulness of data processing.

Happenings

Upcoming & Past Events

  • Nov 26

    Save the Date - eu-LISA Annual Conference

    Taking place in Düsseldorf and organised in collaboration with the German Presidency of the EU, the 2020 eu‑LISA Annual Conference will focus on building digital resilience through interoperability.

  • Nov 4-5

    Save the Date - eu-LISA Industry Roundtable

    Titled "Data Quality and Interoperability: Addressing the Capability Gaps through Standardisation", this year's industry event will take place in Tallinn.

  • Aug 27-28

    eu-LISA & CEPOL Joint Training

    Together with sister agency CEPOL (the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training) we will provide dedicated "Train the Trainers" courses for IT operators on Eurodac, SIS and VIS.

  • Jul 14

    Estonian Minister of Justice Visits eu-LISA HQ

    The Agency hosted a delegation of the Estonian Ministry of Justice to exchange views on interoperability and digitalisation in the justice domain.

    Read more

  • Jul 10

    First Research Study on AI

    Our most recent study provides a high-level overview of the recent developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies and their relevance to eu‑LISA's core business, the operational management of large-scale IT systems.

    Read more

  • Jul 9

    EU JHA Agencies' Joint Response to the Pandemic

    The Heads of the nine Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Agencies met over videoconference to agree on a common approach in regard to the ongoing pandemic. The fundamental rights implications of government COVID-19 measures, the quick adaptation of organised crime to the changing circumstances and the recent surge in drug use, domestic violence and child abuse were the main topics on the agenda.

    Read more

  • Jun 12

    SIS Turns 25

    2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Schengen Information System (SIS), the most widely used and largest information sharing system for security and border management in Europe. It is one of the largest IT systems managed by eu‑LISA, aimed at making Europe safer.

    Read more

  • May 27

    High Level Forum on the Implementation of a New Information Architecture

    The 3rd high-level forum on the implementation of the new architecture for EU information systems for borders, migration and security kicked off highlighting the new challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. A new tool that facilitates a more dynamic view over Interoperability implementation (RAP-IT), as well as a study concerning the use of Artificial Intelligence in the area of Borders, Migration and Security were also presented.

  • May 19

    First ECRIS-TCN Development Milestone

    eu-LISA has taken over operational management of the ECRIS Reference Implementation (RI) from DG-JUST, marking the first milestone in the development of ECRIS-TCN, a new, centralised, hit/no-hit large-scale IT system to supplement the existing EU criminal records database (ECRIS) on non-EU nationals convicted in the EU.

    Read more

  • May 9

    Europe Day Celebrations Move Online

    9 May 2020 commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, which led to the creation of the first European Community. This year, the event was celebrated exclusively online.

    Read more

  • Apr 15

    Video Visit from the EDPS

    The long expected meeting between the newly appointed European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), Wojciech Wiewiórowski, and eu‑LISA's Executive Director Krum Garkov took place virtually. The discussion focused on the evolution of Eurodac, SIS and VIS with particular attention to related data protection aspects.

    Read more

  • Mar 16

    Luca Tagliaretti takes up office in eu-LISA

    With over 20 years of experience working in European Institutions and International Organisations, Luca Tagliaretti is eu‑LISA's new Deputy Executive Director.

    Read more

  • Mar 4

    Annual Meeting with JHA Counsellors

    Before the lockdown, the Agency hosted its main annual briefing for its key stakeholders - the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Counsellors of EU Member States and representatives of JHA Agencies. The purpose of the meeting is to bring delegates up to speed on the results, progress and plans the Agency has achieved over the last year and set out for the near future.

    Read more

  • Mar 4

    Horizontal Working Party on Cyber Issues

    eu-LISA was invited to attend, for the first time, the meeting of the Horizontal Working Party on Cyber Issues and presented the Agency's large-scale IT systems and its numerous experiences in dealing with cyber security issues, from a practitioner point of view.

  • Feb 12

    LIBE Visit to eu-LISA's Operational Site

    eu-LISA had the opportunity to receive a delegation of members of the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE), Policy Advisers and Staff from the LIBE Secretariat at its operational site in Strasbourg, France. The evolution of existing and future large-scale IT systems, as well as budgetary and financial challenges were the main topics discussed by the parties.

    Read more

  • Feb 7

    Heads of Diplomatic Missions Visit eu‑LISA HQ

    eu-LISA hosted a delegation of Ambassadors and representatives from diplomatic missions in Estonia, as well as senior officials from the Estonian administration. The annual briefing gave an overview of the 2020 priorities and the state-of-play on the large-scale IT systems entrusted to the Agency.

    Read more

  • Jan 21-24

    First Advisory Group Meetings for ECRIS-TCN and Interoperability

    The design and development of ECRIS-TCN is the first formal engagement of the Agency with the EU's justice community. Each Advisory Groups (AG) meets regularly to analyise the progress of the implementation timeline and potential challenges. Considering that ECRIS-TCN will be part of the Interoperability architecture of large-scale IT systems, both AGs keep close contact with each other.

    The first Interoperability AG meeting took place on 21 January, while the first ECRIS-TCN AG meeting was conducted on 24 January.

  • Jan 15

    Bilateral Meeting with EC Vice-President Schinas

    eu-LISA Executive Director Krum Garkov and the Vice-President of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, met at the beginning of the year to discuss further development of the Security Union and of the EU Asylum and Migration Policy.

  • Jan 10

    New SIS II Upgrade Successfully Deployed

    Adhering to the new legal base, version 9.3.0 includes new access control features that enable Europol, Eurojust and Frontex to query all types of alerts in the system and perform fingerprint and extended search queries.

    Read more

eu-LISA - The Schengen Area Information Engine

The European Union Agency eu-LISA became operational in 2012 to manage large-scale information systems in the area of freedom, security and justice. Today, we are at the forefront of Europe's information-driven border management and internal security, facilitating the implementation of one of EU citizens' fundamental rights - the right to free movement within the Schengen Area.

The headquarters of eu-LISA are in Tallinn, Estonia, whilst its operational centre is in Strasbourg, France. There is also a technical business continuity site for the systems under management based in Sankt Johann im Pongau, Austria, and a Liaison Office in Brussels, Belgium.

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