A “gaping loophole” which allows third country nationals to hide their criminal records in the European Union was closed today by MEPs.

They backed legislation, led through the European Parliament by ECR Group MEP Daniel Dalton, establishing a central database that will alert Member States if individuals have previous convictions in the EU.

Mr Dalton told MEPs that the change was essential to fight crime and terrorism in a world where people were increasingly mobile and cross-border crime was on the rise.

“There is currently an efficient way to identify previous convictions for EU nationals but not for people from outside the bloc or those with dual nationality. Officials who suspect a non-EU national may have a criminal past can only find those convictions by asking all 27 other member states. This means previous criminal convictions are rarely found. It is a gaping legal loophole which leaves people in the EU less safe,” he said.

“The inclusion of dual nationals in this system will prevent them from hiding past criminal convictions in the EU simply by disclosing only one of their passports. This is a good agreement. It will make our citizens safer, ensure serious criminal convictions are disclosed to judicial authorities and ensure that EU and non-EU nationals are treated equally. At the same time we have protected the rights of individuals by placing safeguards on how this information can be shared – this is not a database that can be simply browsed through,” Dalton added.