The forty-five countries of the European Region are working to establish a rational system of regional cooperation in the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGFRA) in Europe. This is called the European Integrated System, or AEGIS for short which has established for the first time a European Collection, which operates as a virtual (European) genebank. the accessions in the European Collection (European Accessions) are maintained in accordance with agreed quality standards, and to be freely available in accordance with the terms and conditions set out in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (the Treaty). In so doing, the countries hope to rationalize the present system of conservation and sustainable use in Europe, and to improve its efficiency at both the collective and individual levels. The new system will allow individual genebanks to rely on the work being undertaken by other genebanks, without having to duplicate it themselves.
The legal mechanism for establishing AEGIS is the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) entered into by eligible countries of the region and the European Commission. The MoU sets out their commitments as full Members of AEGIS and the main lines of AEGIS. To be eligible for membership, the countries listed must be members of ECPGR, and either Contracting Parties to the Treaty or otherwise willing to make PGRFA under their jurisdiction available under the conditions of the Treaty.
The MoU has come into force in July 2009. The MoU is supplemented by a series of Associate Member Agreements for the individual genebanks and other institutions that wish to become part of AEGIS.