Improving the exchange of information on criminals

The Commission proposes to improve the EU-wide information exchange on criminal records of third country nationals. This will make fighting terrorism more efficient.

How did we get here?

In 2012 the EU decided to create this pretty cool computerized system called ECRIS aka European Criminal Records Information System. It’s basically a system for EU countries to communicate with each other about criminal convictions of EU citizens in other countries than their own. Let’s go for a real life example here to make it easier: Bad French person committing crime in Spain and later in Sweden. Swedish authorities could easily check whether bad French person was previously bad and could adjust the punishment in Sweden accordingly.

ECRIS works well for these exchanges of information about criminal records of EU citizens. However, the system is not set up in a way that e.g. a Spanish judge could check whether an U.S. American citizen (aka third-country national), who is accused of manslaughter in Spain, has already been convicted of similar crimes anywhere else in Europe. In order to do that the judge would have to sask  ALL 28 administrations to check their files. This procedure was not used a lot these days because it is very time-consuming for national administrations. As a consequence, criminals were often able to ‘escape’ their criminal past simply by moving to another Member State.

With the recent terrorist attacks the system showed its flaws and the EU Commission decided it needed some serious overhauling in order to have a properly functioning common area of justice and security and to fight cross-border terrorism.


Why is this important for me?

National authorities might be able to combat organized crime better or identify links to terrorist organizations by having more efficient access to criminal background information about an accused person. Additionally, the EU Commission says that the main purpose of ECRIS is to “ensure the safety of citizens by preventing crime through effective judicial cooperation”. Plus: Non-EU citizens could benefit from this stronger cooperation by being able to prove a clean criminal record, e.g. when job-hunting in an EU Member State. Some very informative FAQs on ECRIS.


What's the content?

The proposal will basically add some legislation on exchange of criminal record information of third country nationals in order to reduce crime and to make sure to prevent terrorist attacks as much as possible through early information exchange in criminal matters. EU Member States will now have to store the criminal records of third-country nationals (together with the nationality of the convicted as well as fingerprints) and update this database regularly.

To come back to our real life example: Instead of having to ask 28 other states our judge in Spain will be able to enter the name (or finger print for that matter) of an accused third-country national in Spain and – in case the accused person has been convicted previously anywhere in the EU – the ECRIS system will tell the judge which EU country has records on this misbehaving fellow. The Spanish judge then needs to contact only this ONE country instead of having to try his luck with 28 different legal administrations.


What's happening with this legislation in the future?

The proposal is handled in the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament who agreed on its position in June 2016. The Council also already agreed a negotiation position and the talks between the institutions are currently ongoing.


Related Bills:

Creating a European Border and Coast Guard

Fighting the trafficking of firearms

Use of Flight Passenger Data

politixNew visa rules for EU travellersReduced share of biofuels in energy mixFruit, vegetables and milk for European StudentsBan on all kind of driftnet fisheriesToo big to fail: Structural Reform of EU Banking SectorA European Platform to fight undeclared workA pan-European Pension System Fighting the trafficking of firearmsA New Waste Management System in the EUFinancial Transaction Tax: Making banks pay for the crisisLess Plastic Bags for EuropeEliminating roaming, securing net neutralityRight2Water: Water and sanitation as human rightEnforceable Flight Rights for Air PassengersPublic list of company owners to fight money launderingMore Possibilities for the Restriction of GMOsEuropean Solidarity CorpsTightened rules for safer and cleaner carsSafer Ship TravelsProtecting fish and marine ecosystemsUpdated European data protection laws Resettlement of Migrants in the EUSafety standards for new kinds of CablewaysCheaper cross-border Parcel DeliveryCross-border enforcement for speeding & traffic offencesEU-wide Minimum Standards for FrackingEuropean statistics relating to persons and householdsUpdated Rules for Audiovisual MediaNew Food Labeling RulesAccess to a Basic Bank Account for EveryoneA New Copyright Regime for EuropePollen as specific 'Ingredient' or Natural Honey Component?Circular Economy: Reducing waste in EuropeRules for cross-border divorcesBetter Management of Asylum FlowsAn Entry-Exit System for External European BordersResolution on Sexual and Reproductive HealthStronger Rules against Terrorism Financing and Money LaunderingCloning of animals New Rules for Tobacco Products and PackagingOrganic production and labelling of organic productsSimpler Rules for VAT in EcommerceLess Greenhouse Gas Emissions for the EUUpdated rules on 'novel foods'Free Wi-Fi for EverybodyEnsure safe and secure air travelBetter Checks of EU Citizens at External BordersUse of Flight Passenger Data Posting of workersBetter Connectivity and super-fast InternetReduced Flush Volume for ToiletsNew rules on privacy in electronic communicationMinimum standards for children accused in courtMore Security in EU Partner CountriesBetter Cooperation among Consumer Protection AuthoritiesEuropass - Better online tools for your job huntStricter Rules for the Export of potentially Dangerous GoodsBetter Protection from Cancer at WorkStrategy Against Discrimination of LGBTI Persons Better protection for children of international couplesCreation of a European Union Agency for AsylumNew consumer rules when (online) shoppingProviding Services more easily across bordersA new electoral law for the European ParliamentBetter access to books for the blindBetter EU access for highly skilled workersCross-border portability: Access to streaming services from abroadMaking products & services more accessible for disabled peopleReducing pollutant emissions from carsConsumer rights for downloads and streaming services Geoblocking: Less consumer discrimination onlineBetter energy labels on electronic productsUpdated energy efficiency rulesA European ESTABetter protection for your moneyEuropean Year of Cultural Heritage 2018Creating a European Border and Coast GuardWork-Life Balance for allMore renewable energyEmpowering electricity consumersReducing administrative burden for EU citizens