The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee on January 25 approved plans to create a new centralised data base on third country nationals. The new tool will complement the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), which EU countries already use to exchange information on previous convictions of EU citizens.

“The fast, reliable exchange of information is key in the fight against crime at all levels,” said Rapporteur Daniel Dalton (ECR, UK). “This measure will close the loophole allowing third country nationals to hide their criminal records, while protecting peoples’ rights and information.”

As outlined in a European Parliament press release, the new ECRIS Third Country National (TCN) system, will enable national authorities to establish quickly whether any EU member state holds criminal records on a non-EU citizen. It will contain data such as names, addresses, fingerprints and facial images (which, however, may only be used to confirm the identity of a non-EU national who has been identified based on other data). It will also comply with EU data security and data protection rules.

MEPs said that, in addition to judges and prosecutors, Europol, Eurojust and the future European Public Prosecutor’s Office should also have access to the ECRIS-TCN system.

MEPs agreed that this system is an important cross-border crime fighting tool for European prosecutors, judges and police forces, who currently often rely solely on data available from their own national criminal record systems.

The legislation was piloted through the European Parliament by ECR MEP Dan Dalton. He said: “The fast, reliable exchange of information is key in the fight against crime at all levels. This measure aims to make it harder for criminals to slip through the net.”

“The inclusion of facial images on the database will improve the accuracy of searches and help prevent cases of mistaken identity,” he added. “However, strong safeguards must be built in whenever personal information is held centrally. Therefore, I have included guarantees that requests for correction and deletion are dealt with swiftly.”

Dalton also said he agrees that EU citizens holding dual nationality with a third country should not be included on the database to avoid creating two classes of EU citizenship.

The legislation now moves into a round of talks between the Parliament, the European Council and European Commission before being voted on by all MEPs.