General information on Schengen and the Schengen Information System

Development of the Schengen area

On 14 June 1985, five Member States, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and The Netherlands, signed an agreement to create a territory without borders and provide a common policy on temporary entry of persons and cross-border police co-operation. This became known as the ‘Schengen Area’. The name was taken from the name of the town in Luxembourg, on the border with France and Germany, where such agreement was signed.
Taking as a basis the Schengen Agreement on the gradual abolition of checks at common borders, on 19th June 1990, there was the signature of the Schengen Convention between the Governments of the States of the Benelux Economic Union, the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Republic. The contracting parties of the Convention, Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg and The Netherlands have decided to fulfil the resolve expressed in the Agreement to abolish checks at their common borders and on the movement of persons and facilitate the transport and movement of persons and facilitate the transport and movements of goods at those borders. The intergovernmental co-operation expanded to include other Member States.
Malta joined Schengen in December 2007 by lifting its sea borders. Subsequently in March 2008, Malta lifted its air borders rendering the Schengen Acquis fully operative. Being part of the Schengen zone means that Maltese citizens are free to travel to any Schengen country without being subjected to border checks.
Facilitating free movement within internal borders of the Schengen Area has to be reconciled with specific measures aimed to strengthen security both at external borders and within the Schengen zone. This involved improving co-ordination between the police, customs and the judiciary and taking necessary measures to combat important problems such as terrorism and organised crime. In order to make this possible, an information system known as the Schengen Information System was set up to exchange data on people’s identities and descriptions of objects which are either stolen or lost.

The Schengen Information System (SIS)

The SIS is the most widely used and largest information sharing system for security and border management in Europe that allows the competent authorities of participating Member States to enter and consult alerts on persons or objects.

A renewed technical version of the system went live on 7 March 2023. The renewed SIS retains its composition of a central system ("Central SIS II"), a national system (the "N.SIS II") in each Member State (the national data systems that will communicate data with the Central SIS II), and a communication infrastructure between the central system and the national systems providing an encrypted virtual network dedicated to SIS data and the exchange of data, including supplementary information between the authorities responsible for similar data exchanges (SIRENE Bureaux).

The system establishes communication amongst all Member States and provides end-users with access to information in accordance with the applicable legal framework. It is a vital tool for the smooth running of the Schengen area. It contributes to the implementation of the provisions on returns of third-country nationals, border management, the free movement of persons and to police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.

For more information on the SIS and the personal data processed within such system click here​​.  

Information on the SIS may also be found on the website of the European Commission​. 
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