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EU borders database defenestrated in Prague?

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An upgrade to the database that allows members of the EU's open borders agreenent to exchange security information could soon be scrapped, even though €28m has already been spent on the project.

The future of the delayed Schengen Information System II (SIS II) is in doubt according to a meeting of home affairs ministers in Prague yesterday, EUobserver reports.

Czech interior minister Ivan Langer said: "[Either] we dismantle all the problems, the SIS II works, and there is a fixed date when [the upgrade work is] over. Or, at the end of our presidency, the result will be that the problems are so serious that we have to follow the contingency plan."

A "contingency plan" is currently being drawn up. The Czech Republic took over presidency of the Council of the European Union this month and will hold it until the end of June.

The Schengen zone covers all EU member states, except the UK and Ireland, and recent accession nations Romania and Bulgaria. Non-EU members Iceland, Norway and Switzerland are also included. Citizens from Schengen countries are able to cross borders without passport checks.

Agreed in 2002, SIS II was intended to expand the types of data on travellers that Schengen states could exchange, to include fingerprints and photgraphs as well as passport numbers. But the project has hit major technical problems, and in 2007 new EU member states were invited to join the old database instead.

Now some ministers are publicly questioning whether the further €40m earmarked for SIS II would be good money after bad. Austria's interior minister Maria Fekter said: "It is unacceptable to put money into developing this if the future of the project is not clear."

Peter Hustinx, the EU's data protection supervision, has been critical of the potential privacy implications of SIS II and EU immigration technology projects. ®

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