EU members to share justice information

European countries would exchange law enforcement information, such as DNA profiles and fingerprints, seamlessly across borders under a proposed framework decision released by the European Commission Oct. 12.

The decision is being billed as a new concept that replaces the former approach of attempting to build on the multiple information-sharing agreements between the 25 European Union member states.

"Although today's Commission proposal takes into account important legal developments in the field?and benefits from the experience and knowledge acquired with these instruments, it entails an innovative approach," the commission said in a press release. "The Commission proposal does not follow a model but intends to introduce an entire new concept."

The goal of the new information-sharing system is to better address multinational organized crime and terrorism. The system will include safeguards and legal remedies for the transfer of personal data.

In November 2004 the European Council, which defines the general political guidelines of the European Union, adopted the Hague Programme goals of sharing law enforcement data across borders with strict data protection and security.

The European Council and the European Commission, which proposes legislation, policies and programs of action for the EU, adopted an action plan implementing the Hague Programme in June.

Despite many initiatives to improve criminally related information-sharing in recent years, the level of cooperation is still inadequate, the commission said. Swedish initiatives to overhaul legal and operational conditions for data sharing within the EU have improved things but have not removed the unpredictability of the process. Furthermore, under existing rules, a country may only request data if it knows that a member state holds that data.

The framework decision sets up a system in which member states must share certain types of existing information with other member states. The types of information to be shared might include DNA profiles, fingerprints, ballistics, vehicle registration information, telephone numbers and other communication data, as well as names contained in civil registers, according to Pinsent Masons law firm of London.

The new proposal requires the member states to notify one another on whether certain types of information are available and accessible in online electronic databases. It also requires the member states to create data indices for "online consultation as regards information that is not accessible online," the commission press release said.

A separate proposal, accompanying the framework decision, covers the protection of personal data.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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