Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400-419)|
28 NOVEMBER 2006
Q400 Baroness Henig: We are moving forward
now. I would like to ask what is the timetable and likely content
of all the measures implementing the Schengen II legislation which
the Commission must adopt, including the standards relating to
the use of biometrics.
Mr Faull: There will be implementing measures
to complete the SIS II legal framework. We will produce those
implementing measures, including those relating to standards for
the use of biometrics, and a new SIRENE manual. Can somebody remind
me what SIRENE stands for?
Mrs Boulanger: It is Supplementary Information
Request at National Entry. In practice the acronym does not reveal
the content exactly.
Mr Faull: Anyway, there will be a new version
Q401 Chairman: I think we call it sire"ne,
do we not?
Mrs Boulanger: Yes.
Mr Faull: It sounds odd in English, does it
not? All of that will be necessary for the proper application
of the legislative instruments and for SIS II to start operations
properly. According to the rescheduling agreement reached in the
Council in October these measures should be adopted by August
2007 which will leave enough time for the Member States to provide
for internal measures to implement them before SIS II moves into
its operational phase. They may need subsequently to be amended
further when biometric searches start since those biometric searches
will in turn depend on the availability of the proper infrastructure
at the central site and the readiness of the Member States to
set in place the requisite training of the people concerned, the
equipment at a national level and so on.
Q402 Baroness Henig: What is the likely
timetable and content of the Commission report on the use of one-to-many
Mr Faull: I am just checking my notes.
Q403 Chairman: I am sorry, I think this
is an unscripted question.
Mr Faull: All right then, Frank. He is better
at improvising than I am.
Dr Paul: It is very clear that the biometric
search capacity will only be introduced once the system is up
and running. That has been made very clear from the outset. When
that time will be depends very much on when the Member States
will be ready to transmit such information and do the searches
having done the training of all police forces, et cetera. When
this will happen will depend on the final timeframe for making
the SIS II operational. You will probably know that for the time
being Member States are discussing in the Council the possibility
to temporarily enlarge the current SIS I system to a system called
SIS one4all. That is the name that has been given to this initiative
by the Portuguese Government which initially suggested this idea.
If it is decided by the Council on 4 and 5 December that Member
States will go for that option, and thus new Member States will
be integrated into the current SIS I, this will inevitably have
a repercussion on the timing for the SIS II, so there will be
further delays in making the SIS II available if that initiative
is implemented. It really depends on the time when the SIS II
is made available. We estimate the time that is needed to implement
the biometric search functionality in the SIS II once it has become
operational is probably something about two years, but again very
much depending on the ability of Member States to perform these
biometric searches. It goes without saying that we will of course
look at this very closely both from a technical and data protection
point of view. The way we will do this is probably link it to
the infrastructure of the so-called biometric matching system
which is a service oriented architecture that will serve simultaneously
various applications, such as the VISthe Visa Information
Systemand then the SIS II.
Q404 Baroness Henig: When you have done
all that and you have presumably reported on that some time down
the line, how can the Commission ensure that your report is acted
on by the Council?
Dr Paul: I did not quite get the last bit.
Q405 Baroness Henig: You have been describing
the process as somewhat down the line that you, as the Commission
will oversee what is going on and presumably report on this at
Dr Paul: Yes.
Q406 Baroness Henig: How can you then
ensure that your report is acted on by the Council at that point
in time when you have done that?
Dr Paul: There is no further need for a specific
legal instrument to be adopted. There will be no further consultation
of the European Parliament on a new legal instrument, for instance,
we will just implement it as we have foreseen according to the
then established standards that still need to be studied when
we are ready to implement biometrics.
Q407 Baroness Henig: So you will just
go ahead and it will not go to Council at that stage.
Dr Paul: We will report to Council and the Parliament.
Mrs Boulanger: The Commission will prepare a
report and the report will be submitted to the Council and the
Q408 Baroness Henig: How will you then
ensure that it is acted upon?
Dr Paul: This is the point. There will be no
further legal act that would involve Parliament to implement the
biometrics. If you refer to the authorisation to implement, this
has already been given in the currently adopted legal instrument.
Mrs Boulanger: If you will allow me to add something.
Most probably this would be done via the comitology procedure
and, as you know, all the acts the Commission adopts via the comitology
procedure are transmitted to the Parliament, so the Parliament
has some rights according to this procedure.
Q409 Lord Teverson: Can I ask for clarification.
Forgive me if I have not been listening properly. Are you saying,
which I had not picked up, that there is now a Portuguese proposal
that SIS I be extended in order to take in new Member States which
would then have priority over the development of SIS II so it
moves forward the political objective of integration of the new
Member States and then we deal with SIS II?
Mr Faull: The Portuguese have proposed a system
whereby the SIS I could be cloned, in effect, and made available
for the new Member States immediately, solving the capacity problem,
at least in the short-term, but not adding on any new features.
That is currently being discussed and will be discussed again
in the Council next week. Member States are somewhat divided on
the issue. Obviously there is a resource issue, particularly in
the smaller Member States, where we have alerted people to the
danger that by working now on SIS I they will essentially cannibalise
the teams working on SIS II because they are not going to find
extra people that easily, so this will add a further delay to
the SIS II project which meanwhile everybody says remains fully
necessary. The political attraction of finding a quick fix and
dealing with the second-class citizen perception that the Earl
of Caithness referred to is powerful and one has to acknowledge
that. It may release some political pressure now but whether it
will fulfil all the expectations is very much a matter of discussion.
I understand that the Member States met in the Article 36 Committee
to discuss this yesterday and it will be discussed by the Permanent
Representatives Committee, Coreper tomorrow.
Q410 Chairman: Do you know if it got
much support yesterday?
Mr Faull: I think it got some support. I do
not know whether my British friends sitting over there were present;
I was not. Were you, Marie-Hélène?
Dr Paul: I was present.
Mr Faull: You were present, Frank. I had a very
quick read-out just coming over here this morning from Frank,
and he can add something. There is some support but considerable
division still. Is that a fair characterisation?
Dr Paul: Yes, it is a fair characterisation,
however I would say at this stage the probability of this being
adopted remains relatively high.
Q411 Chairman: High?
Dr Paul: Yes, relatively high. That said, if
you will allow me to come back to the question you have just put,
I understood from what you said that you think this indicates
a priority that is given to the SIS I-for-all project over the
SIS II project.
Q412 Lord Teverson: Only from what Jonathan
was saying himself.
Dr Paul: In theory, at least, equal priority
will be given to the SIS II and the SIS one4all projects. The
delay that I was referring to is caused by the risks Mr Faull
quite rightly underlined. However, it is also a purely and absolutely
inevitable technical consequence. The reason is simply that under
the current development plan for the SIS II we would have to migrate
the 15 existing users, the 15 existing Member States, from the
old system into the new system. If the new Member States are integrating
into the old system it automatically increases the number of Member
States that would have to migrate and it takes a certain amount
of time for each Member State which leads to those inevitable
delays. The delay is of a simply inevitable technical nature.
Mr Faull: May I make an off the record comment?
Q413 Chairman: Please.
Mr Faull: (The answer was given off the record)
Q414 Earl of Listowel: Director-General,
can you provide some help in explaining why are none of the measures
that you have been discussing subject to the new "regulatory
procedure with scrutiny", and this is a procedure which gives
control over draft implementing measures to the European Parliament?
Is any part of these implementing measures likely to be secret?
Mr Faull: The regulatory procedure with scrutiny,
which is a quasi-legislative procedure, was considered unsuitable
in this case because the implementing measures we are talking
about are not intended to amend or to supplement the legal instruments
themselves. They are technical or operational implementation of
what has been agreed in the legislation rather than implementation
of such a nature as basically to amend the original legislation.
The adoption of the implementing measures by the Commission will,
we believe, constitute a step forward in comparison with the current
SIS arrangements in transparency terms where, frankly, some implementing
measures are not formally established at all, things are done,
agreed by the technical people involved, and, if reduced to writing
at all certainly not made available. In accordance with comitology
procedures we will send to the European Parliament all the draft
implementing measures we are speaking of and they will be available
to the public in accordance with our normal document access procedures.
Q415 Lord Teverson: Director-General,
this is around the proposals on the management of SIS II and what
options there are available. We are particularly interested is
one of those options the management of SIS II by agencies like
Europol or Frontex or an existing organisation within the EU family?
Mr Faull: We have started work on what will
be a major impact assessment on the long-term management of SIS
II and we will also encompass in that the other large-scale IT
systems that have been created in the justice, freedom and security
area for which Frank Paul is responsible. We do not know what
the impact assessment will say obviously, but we have identified
five options which we think are worthy at least of consideration:
a brand new agency; the Frontex agency, the agency for the management
of the external borders which lives in Warsaw; management by the
Commission which could either be direct or delegated management
by an executive agency but under the Commission's aegis; management
by Europol or management by a Member State on behalf of all the
others. All of those things are possible, they have merits and
they have demerits. We will look into them and provide the best
objective arguments we can so there can be a proper debate and
then a decision on them. Another option to be considered is whether
we are talking only about SIS II or whether we would include in
a package the other big computer systems that have grown up in
the justice and home affairs areas and which there is a fairly
widespread school of thought that it is not the Commission's usual
core business to manage.
Q416 Lord Teverson: Could I ask out of
my ignorance how that decision is made? Who makes that decision?
What is the procedure?
Mr Faull: It would require legislation.
Q417 Lord Teverson: It is a legislative
Mr Faull: Yes.
Q418 Lord Avebury: Before asking my next
question can I ask a supplementary on that one. Are there not
strong management arguments for allocating this to an agency which
already has experience of large-scale computer system management?
In that sense would not, for example, Europol be high on the priority
list rather than establishing a new agency which has to acquire
the capability of managing large computer systems from scratch?
Mr Faull: In general I am sure you have a very
good point that if we have an agency with successful experience
of managing large-scale computer systems they will have developed
skills, experience and expertise in systems which would encourage
the view that they should at least have a shot in this context
as well rather than starting everything from scratch. That is
a compelling argument.
Q419 Lord Avebury: The five alternatives
that you mentioned, will these be evaluated from the cost point
of view so that you can differentiate between those who do not
need large-scale training programmes for completely unskilled
or inexperienced staff?
Mr Faull: Very much so.