EU wants to expand criminal record exchange to non-EU citizens

© Ralph Orlowski
Brussels is seeking to introduce an EU-wide sharing of fingerprints and other records of non-citizens stored in national databases to curb the use of false identities and reduce the terrorist threat across the union.

The European Commission proposal, if approved by member states, will focus on the exchange of criminal records, including the fingerprints of all “non-EU citizens” through the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), as a key part of the European Agenda on Security in the fight against terrorism.

“By including fingerprints of non-EU citizens we will have a strong tool to tackle the use of false identities," said Vera Jourova, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. “The Paris attacks in November confirmed the urgent need for more robust and seamless judicial cooperation throughout the EU.”

This initiative will make sure that ECRIS, established in 2012, will be used to its full potential by insuring that the criminal records for both EU and non-EU citizens can be accessed by all 28 member states.

“Improved information sharing between national authorities will contribute towards the better and faster combating of criminal and terrorist activity, so that citizens' safety is more secure throughout the EU,” the commission said in a statement.

Before the proposal goes into effect, it has to be debated in the Informal Justice and Home Affairs Council, Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. Once approved, the new legislation will go into affect in a year, 2017 at earliest.

ECRIS is a decentralized criminal records data bank that is stored in national databases and exchanged electronically by Member States upon request. Last year the system processed some 288,000 requests across the EU.