HP wins Euro border, visa deal

The European Commission (EC) has signed a $48.5 million contract with Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard and three European-based information technology companies to develop centralized information systems to manage border and police information and visa requests, HP announced today.

HP was selected along with Steria, a French based IT company, Mummert Consulting, based in Germany, and Primesphere, headquartered in Luxembourg.

The four companies will develop the next generation of the Schengen Information System. The current system -- the largest border control and police information system in the world -- was developed as part of the Schengen Agreement of 1985. That agreement essentially allows citizens of the 15 countries that have signed on to enter one country and travel freely throughout the "Schengen" zone. Much like going from one U.S. state to another, there are few travel restrictions and checks among the countries within the zone.

The development of SIS II, expected by 2007, will provide information on wanted persons, stolen vehicles, identification documents and banknotes through a database that would be accessed by police from all participating member states. It is expected to be much more flexible and would be able to store photographic images and fingerprints. SIS II is also an important prerequisite for lifting border controls between current members and the 10 member states that entered the European Union last May.

The Visa Information System (VIS) is a new information system allowing law enforcement authorities of member states to access visa requests for entry to area countries. It is expected there will be more than 20 million visa requests and more than 45 million requests to check the validity of issued visas made annually, according to the release.

HP is responsible for providing ongoing services to ensure availability and performance of system infrastructure.

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