» Monday, July 16, 2007

Ireland/Schengen Database

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMS) told journalists that the Prime Minister attached much importance to his visit to Northern Ireland so early in his premiership. He had a bilateral meeting with the Taoiseach as well as meetings with Dr. Paisley and Martin McGuiness, prior to the meeting of the British/Irish Council, where the main item on the agenda was strategic transport issues.

The PMS said that one issue that the Prime Minister discussed with Bertie Ahern was how we could work together to enhance data sharing on terror suspects within the EU. The Prime Minister had made reference in PMQs recently to the importance of taking this forward internationally to enhance data sharing of suspicious individuals. The reason why it was important that the UK and Ireland worked together was because they were not part of the Schengen area, which meant that we were excluded from participating in certain Schengen data sharing arrangements.

The PMS explained that there were two main Schengen arrangements. The first was the Visa Information System (VIS), which would store personal data and biometric information from all visa application received by Schengen countries including applications that were refused. This regulation would be discussed at the June Justice and Home Affairs Council, with its implementation starting around 2009. What we would be pushing jointly forward with the Irish Government was that the UK and Ireland law enforcement authorities have access to the information, particularly the biometric information, available on individuals who had sought visas for other EU countries. The second element to the Schengen arrangement was to have access to the Schengen Information System (SIS), which was a data system containing alerts on suspected individuals. At the moment, our law enforcement agencies had access to this information, but the immigration agencies did not.

The PMS said that this was to enable the UK and Irish immigration agencies to have access to the information held by Schengen countries that they considered to be suspect.

Asked for further information about the Prime Minister’s talks with the Taoiseach regarding the EU constitution, the PMS said that there was not much to add to the Prime Minister’s words. This was a live issue of debate within the EU, and we now needed to move to the next stage, but this was about touching base on live EU issues.

Asked to confirm that they were talking about the constitution, rather than the current treaty, the PMS said that they were discussing the treaty.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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