In a non-legislative enactment, the European Parliament on Tuesday endorsed a recommendation for applying provisions of the Schengen Information System (SIS) in Cyprus – a matter separate to Cyprus’ accession to the Schengen area.
In doing so, the European Parliament sanctioned a report prepared by Euro MP Peter Kofod, acting as rapporteur for the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.
The upshot of the decision means Cypriot authorities can now access SIS information and alerts on persons and objects entering the Republic.
The SIS is a governmental database maintained by the European Commission. It is used by 31 European countries to find information about individuals and entities for the purposes of national security, border control and law enforcement since 2001. A second technical version of this system, SIS II, went live in April 2013.
In his report, Kofod had recommended the application of SIS in Cyprus.
“Such Decision can only be taken after Cyprus has made the necessary technical and legal arrangements, including relating to data protection, to process SIS data and exchange supplementary information. Accordingly, a Schengen evaluation to verify the level of data protection in Cyprus was carried out in November 2019. On 5 November 2020 the Commission adopted, by means of Commission Implementing Decision, the evaluation report confirming that a satisfactory level of data protection is met.”
Kofod reported that “Certain restrictions on the use of the SIS in Cyprus will be imposed until the Council has decided on the full application of the Schengen acquis in Cyprus and on the lifting of checks at the crossing points between the areas of the Republic of Cyprus in which the Government of the Republic of Cyprus exercises effective control and the areas in which it does not.”
The rapporteur went on to note: “In light of recent challenges facing Cyprus, namely a surge of illegal migrants arriving guided by smugglers from the northern part of its territory and in view of the fact that they illegally cross the 184 kilometre long so called Green Line, bypassing any checks at the crossing points between the areas of the Republic of Cyprus in which the Government of the Republic of Cyprus exercises effective control and the areas in which it does not, the Rapporteur considers it paramount for Cyprus authorities to be able to verify information in the SIS. As a result, border control and law enforcement authorities will be able to enter and consult alerts on persons or objects in the SIS in order to ensure a higher level of public security.”
Kofod stressed, however “that Cyprus accession to Schengen area remains to be assessed independently of this participation in the SIS. Any future accession to the Schengen area should be evaluated solely in view of its ability to keep the external borders of the European Union safe and secure.”