Celebrating 10 years as the Digital Heart of Schengen

by Matthieu Jacquin - Global Account Manager
by Lisa Bodzenta - Manager at Sopra Steria Next
| minute read

Last month EU Agency eu-LISA, in charge of the operational management of the EU’s Large-scale IT Systems in the Area of freedom, security, and justice (LISA)​, celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a major conference. As a key technology partner of eu-LISA, Sopra Steria also attended the conference as it represented a unique opportunity to look back on a collaboration of many years with this special customer.

Throughout the last ten years, what do you consider the major milestones out of all the work you did for eu-LISA?

Matthieu Jacquin, Global Account Manager: “First of all, it is important to point out that our work started even before eu-LISA was founded in 2011, directly with the European Commission’s DG HOME. eu-LISA as an Agency became operational in 2012, with the entry into operation of the EU’s VIS, short for Visa Information System. However, Sopra Steria has actually been involved in the development of the EU’s main information systems since the beginning of the 2000s. Starting in 2001 with the asylum fingerprint database Eurodac, the EU's first multinational biometric system which entered into operation in 2003, we subsequently also worked on all the other main systems that are now in operation: the Schengen Information System, or SIS, and the aforementioned VIS. All of these systems I would consider important milestones for both the EU and Sopra Steria as technology suppliers.”

Lisa Bodzenta, Manager at Sopra Steria Next: “Also worth a mention, our engagement in Schengen systems is not limited to the European level as Sopra Steria is actively committed to supporting Member States. Numerous Member States use our solutions to interconnect with these central IT systems. Moreover, we have been collaborating very closely with the Member State France, our ‘home market’, and especially with its Ministry of the Interior, for the best part of the last 20 years. So for Sopra Steria, this is not just a Benelux story but also very much a Group story, involving other major branches such as France and Germany. Even the UK branch used to work on their national side of the SIS, until they had to decouple from it a year and a half ago.”

I understand that your commitment to the EU’s Schengen Area is actually a much longer and older story, as it predates your working relationship with eu-LISA. Moving away from the past and looking at the present: what projects are currently in the pipeline for eu-LISA?

Matthieu Jacquin: “Three other centralised information systems for security, border, and migration management are currently under development, bringing the total up to six in the following years. They are the Entry/Exit System (EES), the European Travel Information Authorisation System (ETIAS), and the European Criminal Records Information System for Third Country Nationals (ECRIS-TCN). Whereas the first three systems – Eurodac, SIS, and VIS - were set up completely separately, in a siloed approach, eu-LISA has now taken on a new approach that puts interoperability at the centre of every project. This new approach will help the Agency to move from three siloed information systems to six interoperable ones.

To ensure that all its central information systems eventually become interoperable in full respect of fundamental rights, eu-LISA has developed its own Interoperability Framework. One of its main components is a shared Biometric Matching System, better known as sBMS. The development of that large-scale biometric database has been entrusted to us in a consortium with IDEMIA, the leader in digital identity technologies. Since the sBMS will effectively function as the cornerstone for the protection of European borders, we of course feel extremely honoured to be a part of this critical project.”

For more thoughts and comments about our relationship with eu-LISA, as well as a further glance into that Agency’s future, check out the second part of our interview.