On Monday evening, negotiating teams from the European Parliament and the Council of the EU reached a provisional agreement on automated data searches between authorities investigating crimes in EU member states, currently based on the so-called Prüm Convention.
The EU’s current rules for automated data exchanges for investigating and preventing crimes are based on the Prüm Convention of 2005. In 2021, the Commission proposed so-called ‘Prüm II’ rules to expand and simplify data exchanges as part of the Police Cooperation Code package. It also included a proposal on information exchanges between law enforcement authorities, which was adopted by the European Parliament on 15 March 2023.
Faster exchanges covering new types of data
The new law would expand the scope of data searches (currently including DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration data) between police, customs and other relevant authorities to facial images and police record index numbers of suspects and convicted criminals, if member states opt in to share these records. When a positive match is found, core data including names, birthdates and case numbers of criminal cases can be exchanged.
Also, the co-legislators agreed that data could also be exchanged to search for missing persons and identifying human remains, as well as for humanitarian reasons, including natural disasters, where this is permitted by national law. After an initial query has resulted in a match, it was agreed that data would have to be exchanged within 48 hours of the match, unless judicial authorisation requires a longer timeframe.
During negotiations, MEPs successfully pushed for human review of data matches, and a provision that facial images and police records can only be exchanged to investigate crimes carrying a prison sentence of at least one year. They also secured a due diligence clause ensuring that data exchanges fully respect fundamental rights, and a proportionality check on exchanges.
After the vote, rapporteur Paulo Rangel (EPP, Portugal) said: “To have a Europe without internal borders, we also need to give law enforcement proper tools to fight cross-border crime. This long-awaited upgrade to the Prüm framework will allow the authorities to share vital evidence and data, including facial images and police records. At the same time, we have ensured that data exchanges are proportional and covered by strong safeguards, to boost security without undermining fundamental rights.”
The informal agreement now needs to be approved by both Parliament and Council in order to become law. It will enter into force twenty days after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU.