(Source: Council of the EU and European Council)
To effectively fight crime and respond to new criminal threats, the Council adopted a recommendation on operational police cooperation. It also adopted the general approaches on an information exchange directive and the Prüm II regulation.
Prüm II regulation
The objective of the Prüm regulation is to facilitate the automatic exchange between law enforcement authorities of DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration data in order to prevent, detect and investigate criminal offences. It allows the law enforcement authorities to consult the national databases of one or several member states, and provides them with a ‘hit’ or ‘no hit’ reply. They can then request the relevant data.
The new text extends this exchange to other data categories, such as facial images, the police records of suspects and convicted criminals, and driving licences.
The new text also aims to modernise the technical infrastructure supporting these exchanges by replacing the multitude of direct connections between national databases with a central router connecting them all. This will make the system more powerful and efficient, allowing authorities to consult multiple databases more easily.
The text also integrates Europol into the Prüm system by allowing the agency to launch queries and to provide access to its databases containing non-EU biometric data.
Information exchange directive
This text will regulate the organisational and procedural aspects of information exchange between law enforcement authorities, contributing to an efficient exchange of information. It will ensure equivalent access for law enforcement authorities to information available in other member states and avoid the proliferation of communication channels used for information exchange, while reinforcing the role of Europol as the EU’s criminal information hub.
Member states will have a single point of contact (SPOC), operational 24/7, for information exchanges with other EU countries. For urgent cases, the information requested should be made available within eight hours if it is directly available to the SPOC and within three days if the SPOC can obtain it from public authorities or private parties. For all other requests, the information should be made available within seven days.
In addition, Europol should be copied in on all information exchanges, with only certain exceptions listed in the text. The Secure Information Exchange Network Application (SIENA), managed by Europol, would become the default channel of communication.
Recommendation on operational police cooperation
Cross-border hot pursuits and surveillance, as well as patrols and joint operations, are key instruments of police cooperation, helping to ensure that people cannot escape law enforcement simply by crossing the border.
The recommendation adopted sets out a series of standards for operational cooperation between police officers operating in another member state or participating in joint operations. Recommendations include:
- a series of principles for cross-border hot pursuits and surveillance
- a list of offences for which cross-border hot pursuit and surveillance should be allowed
- a framework for joint operations
- the introduction of a support platform for joint patrols and other joint operations, as well as ensuring effective access to information and communication through secure channels
- joint training and professional development with a view to setting up a European police culture
Negotiations with the European Parliament on the two legislative proposals will start once the latter has adopted its position.
Terrorist groups and organised crime organisations engage in a wide range of criminal activities, which spread across borders. According to Europol’s 2021 serious and organised crime threat assessment, almost 70% of criminal networks are active in more than three member states.
Therefore, police officers need to be able to cooperate systematically across the EU and have access to information available to their colleagues in other member states if they are to effectively fight crime and respond to new criminal threats.
A number of measures have been taken in recent years, including the implementation of interoperability between EU justice and home affairs databases and the strengthening of Europol’s mandate. However, more can still be done. On 9 December 2021, the European Commission presented these proposals as part of a package to improve police cooperation.
- Proposal for an information exchange directive (general approach)
- Proposal for a Prüm II regulation (general approach)
- Council Recommendation on operational law enforcement cooperation