A new EU database, approved today by MEPs, will enable EU countries to exchange the criminal records of non-EU citizens’ more quickly.

MEPs agreed in a vote on Tuesday to create a new database on the past convictions of third country nationals (ECRIS-TCN), to complement the existing European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) that is used to exchange information on the previous convictions of EU citizens.

The new centralised database will improve the exchange of information in regard to criminal records of non-EU nationals, throughout the EU, contributing to the EU’s fight against cross-border crime and terrorism.

The new ECRIS Third Country National (ECRIS-TCN) system will:

Enable national authorities to quickly establish whether any EU member state holds criminal records on a non-EU citizen,

Include data on dual nationals, who possess the nationality of a third country and of an EU country to ensure that individuals cannot hide past convictions simply by virtue of having two passports.

Quicker information-sharing on past convictions of people from non-EU countries

The Parliament and Council negotiators have agreed that Europol, Eurojust and the future European Public Prosecutor’s Office will also have access to ECRIS and the Third Country National system, in addition to judges and prosecutors in EU countries.

ECRIS was put in place in 2012 to exchange information on criminal convictions in the EU. However, using the current system to check the criminal records of a non-EU citizen is inefficient. According to the European Commission, in 2014 national authorities used less than five percent of information available in other countries’ criminal records in the conviction cases of third country nationals.

The ECRIS System has been operational since 2012 providing data for an average of 600,000 requests every year.

Making EU citizens safer

“Current rules mean it is very difficult to unmask the past convictions of non-EU nationals. The changes approved by the European Parliament today will make our citizens safer,” said Rapporteur Daniel Dalton (ECR, UK).

According to Pàl Csàky MEP, the EPP Group’s Spokesman on the dossier, this important change means that judges, prosecutors and other relevant authorities will now have all the information needed on criminal acts in the European Union, irrelevant of the nationality of who committed the crime.

Benefits prosecutors, judges and police, helping in their fight against crime and terrorism

“A lot of sentences given in courts in the EU’s Member States usually depend on information that judges and magistrates have on the offenders. The introduction of ECRIS was an important first step in making data on previous convictions available to such authorities. Now, we are taking the next step in extending this information system to third-country nationals. This way, the criminal information database will be used to its full potential”, Csàky said.

The ECRIS-TCN regulation was adopted by 379 to 170, 118 abstentions and the ECRIS-TCN directive by 422 to 130, 116 abstentions.

The new rules have already been agreed upon by the Parliament and Council negotiators in December, but still require the formal approval of the Council.