Today, the European Commission proposed to facilitate the exchange of criminal records of non-EU citizens in the EU by upgrading the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS). This is a key action of the European Agenda on Security, which aims to improve cooperation between national authorities in the fight against terrorism and other forms of serious cross-border crime. This initiative will ensure that ECRIS, which is already widely used for exchange of criminal records of EU citizens, will be used to its full potential.
Véra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: "The Paris attacks in November confirmed the urgent need for more robust and seamless judicial cooperation throughout the EU. ECRIS is an important tool against cross-border crime, as it enables Member States to exchange information on previous convictions anywhere in the EU. Today we propose to upgrade this tool to ensure easier access to the convictions of non-EU citizens. Judges, prosecutors or the police will be better equipped for EU-wide cooperation that will guarantee the security of all citizens throughout the EU. By including fingerprints of non-EU citizens we will have a strong tool to tackle the use of false identities."
ECRIS, established in 2012, enables national judicial authorities to receive information on previous criminal convictions in other Member States either for court proceedings or other purposes like criminal investigations. This allows for a rapid and efficient exchange of information between national authorities, contributing to improving the prevention and fight against cross-border crime and terrorism. Member States currently send through ECRIS around 288,000 requests per year on previous criminal convictions across the EU.
As part of the European Agenda on Security, the Commission is taking steps to adapt to new and evolving threats by ensuring that the criminal convictions of third country nationals convicted in the EU can be easily accessed in ECRIS. This will ensure effective exchange of criminal record data for both EU and non-EU citizens alike, bringing the following benefits:
• Ensuring better security for all citizens throughout the EU: Improved information sharing between national authorities will contribute towards the better and faster combatting of criminal and terrorist activity, so that citizens' safety is more secure throughout the EU.
• Boosting and improving judicial cooperation: Simplifying searches for non-EU nationals' criminal records will encourage national authorities to make more use of ECRIS.
• Cutting costs and improving efficiency: By including an index of criminal records of non-EU citizens in the ECRIS system, Member States searching for previous criminal records of non-EU nationals will no longer need to send requests to all Member States. This reduces costs and administrative burden for national authorities. It will also be easier for non-EU nationals to show they have a clean criminal record (e.g. for employment purposes).
• Better identification with exchange of fingerprints: to tackle the difficulty that can arise in correctly identifying third country nationals, and to tackle the use of false identities, fingerprint data will be part of the criminal record information exchanged.
The European Criminal Record Information system "ECRIS" was established in 2012 on the basis of Council Framework Decision 2009/315/JHA and Council Decision 2009/316/JHA. It aims at allowing an efficient information exchange between Member States regarding criminal convictions in the EU. ECRIS forms a key part of the Commission's priority of a common area of justice and fundamental rights, as well as the European Agenda on Security(IP/15/4869), which calls explicitly for the inclusion of non-EU nationals within ECRIS to improve the fight against cross-border crime and terrorism.
Commissioner Jourová will present the proposal to the Informal Justice and Home Affairs Council on 26 January 2016. The proposal will then be further discussed by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. Once the legislative process completed, the Directive will enter into force one year after publication in the Official Journal. The Commission will carefully monitor its application in order to examine its effectiveness.
For more information
• European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS)
• European Agenda on Security State of Play (Press MEMO)
• Extraordinary Council conclusions (20 November 2015)