As we mentioned in our previous and first article on Estonia, we are now going to concentrate on its evolution in the EU institutions context. Let’s start from something easy to be told. Better: let’s start from something very difficult and technical, but very easy to be explained to readers. Let’s talk about eu-LISA. We mentioned this agency in some of our previous articles last year, speaking about the specularity between UN Agencies and EU ones. eu-Lisa is special, and has no twins in the UN context.
Its acronym refers literally to eu (of course, Europe), L(iberty), I (“I” or “J” mean the same: is the first letter for Justice), S(ecurity), A(gency). The extended name is European Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT Systems in the area of freedom, security and justice.
The Agency is settled in Tallinn, the pretty Estonia’s capital, since 2012, and provides technological support for EU Member States and Institutions, managing the large-scale integrated IT systems whose aims are to maintain internal security in the Schengen countries, to enable Schengen countries to exchange visa data and to determine which EU country is responsible for examining a particular asylum application, according to the well known Dublin system.
The Agency is also in charge to test new technologies to put in place a modern and secure border management system in the EU. For example, it was tasked to put in place and start the testing and follow-up phases of the “Smart Borders” project, the operational step of the “Smart Borders package” drawn by the European Commission, and discussed by the Council of the European Union, in its Justice and Home Affairs modality. This “package” will institute – only after an agreed and well-concluded co-legislation process – an Entry-Exit System (EES) and an European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). Both of them are supposed to start in 2020. The first one will ensure border security tracing all the movements of third countries citizens through the external borders of the Union in both directions. Of course, monitoring the flow of tourists and travellers, the system should check visas, passports, ID documents, verifying if any of the checked persons are criminals, terrorists, or involved in some way in illegal immigration or, worst, in migrant smuggling. This EES should in effects prevent and deter crimes related to immigration, terrorism, and human trafficking. In addition, it should automatically alert the law enforcement agencies about the so called “overstayers”, people who exceeded the maximum period of their stay within the EU borders, according to their visa.
The ETIAS will be very similar to the American ESTA, and is instituting a sort of reservation for achieving a permission to travel to Europe. The entrance of this system in the EU legislation environment is meaning that the Schengen Border Code must be changed. But, of course, it will increase the prevention and the prosecution of crimes involving borders and internal security. That’s sure: people suspected to be criminals or terrorists will not be allowed to enter the Union.
We think that eu-LISA presence in Estonia is a source of pride for this evoluted, smart and resolute country.
The Agency has a management board that meets twice a year and in which all Member States are equally represented, and uses some advisory groups, made of technicians and experts in both the IT and JHA issues. It manages the 3 main JHA systems and databases: the Schengen Information System, the Visa Information System and the Eurodac (whose main task is to collect and examine the fingerprints of people asking for asylum in the EU).
Of course, the Agency studies the way to make Europe safer, from a technical point of view, but has no legislative or cogent powers. It cooperates with single Member States and all the European Institutions – in the JHA area – aging as a high specialized and very qualified consultant and advisor.
The Agency is also part of the network of the JHA Agency which, once a year, organize a joint meeting of their key representatives, in order to exchange methodological information, best practices and training. The network chair is rotational and is chosen from all the agencies Directors for one year. The agency which holds the presidency of the network is also in charge to host the meeting in the country in which is settled in. All the Agencies, after the meeting, approve and disseminate a document containing their joint conclusions, whose aim is to make their policies and actions more coherent, deconflicted, and better linked.
eu-Lisa and Tallinn were in charge of this in 2015. Another reason to look to Estonia as a key partner and actor in the EU, which is increasing its role in the european security framework.
Our next step will be a focus on the upcoming Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU.