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Migration and Home Affairs

Information exchange

The Commission and EU agencies provide tools for the exchange of information between national law enforcement authorities. Such tools are necessary for timely access to accurate and up-to-date information and criminal intelligence to prevent, detect, and investigate criminal activity successfully.

Legal framework

2020-2025: Security Union Strategy

Following the Security Union Strategy adopted in July 2020, the Commission has proposed on 9 December 2020 to strengthen the Europol mandatein order to allow the agency to better support national law enforcement authorities with information, analysis and expertise. The Commission has also adopted a proposal to enable Europol to issue alerts in the Schengen Information System (SIS) on the basis of third country sourced information, in particular, to detect foreign terrorist fighters.

2015-2020: European agenda on security

With the European agenda on security, the Commission identified areas where further efforts are required, notably the full implementation of existing systems.

2010-2015: Stockholm programme

The Stockholm programme highlighted the need to further develop law enforcement cooperation instruments in the EU.

2005-2010: Hague programme

The Hague programme introduced the principle of availability as the guiding concept for law enforcement information exchange: across the EU, information available to one EU country’s law enforcement authorities needs to be made accessible to all EU countries’ law enforcement forces.

Police information sharing instruments

Schengen information system (SIS)

SIS is the most widely used police information sharing instrument, providing alerts on wanted or missing persons and objects, both inside the EU and at the EU’s external borders. In 2015, it went through a major update to facilitate and accelerate information exchange on terrorist suspects and to reinforce the EU countries’ efforts to invalidate the travel documents of persons suspected of wanting to join terrorist groups outside the EU.

The Prüm Decisions (Council Decision 2008/615/JHA and 2008/616/JHA)

The Prüm Decisions, adopted in 2008, aim to step up cross-border cooperation in the fields of justice and home affairs, particularly the exchange of information between authorities responsible for the prevention and investigation of criminal offences. They contain rules in the following areas:

  • the conditions and procedures for mutual on-line access to national databases for automated search and supply of DNA profiles, fingerprint data and certain national vehicle registration data,
  • the conditions for the supply of non-personal and personal data in connection with major events with a cross-border dimension,
  • the conditions for the supply of information in order to prevent terrorist offences,
  • the conditions and procedure for stepping up cross-border police cooperation through various measures.

DNA and fingerprint exchanges take place based on a hit/no-hit approach. It means that DNA profiles or fingerprints found at a crime scene in one EU country can be automatically compared with profiles held in other EU countries’ databases.

Vehicle registration data, including licence plates and vehicle identification number (VIN), are exchanged through national platforms that are linked to the online application EUCARIS.

Swedish Framework Decision (2006/960/JHA)

The Swedish Framework Decision aims at simplifying the exchange of information and intelligence between law enforcement authorities of EU countries. It sets out the rules regarding time limits and standard forms for the exchange of any type of information or data, which is held by law enforcement authorities (principle of availability), on prior request or spontaneously, ensuring that procedures for cross-border data exchanges are not stricter than those applying to exchanges at national level (principle of equivalent access).

EU passenger name record (PNR)

Based on a proposal from the Commission in 2011, the EU PNR directive was adopted in 2016 by the European Parliament and Council. It allows EU countries to collect passenger data from airlines and process them for prevention, detention, investigation, and prosecution purposes, in cases of terrorist offences and serious crimes. The EU PNR directive also defines data protection safeguards and guidelines for the exchange of PNR information between EU countries and with third countries.

Europol’s Secure information exchange network application (SIENA)

Europol acts as the information hub for EU law enforcement through its instrument SIENA. It allows European competent authorities to exchange information in a swift, secure, and user-friendly way, with each other, Europol, and a number of third parties. Its databases facilitate cooperation by allowing EU countries to identify common investigations and providing the basis for strategic and thematic analysis.

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