European Commission

EU moves towards joint police standards

Luxembourg already has police cooperation agreements with neighbouring countries. The EU is now pushing for bloc-wide rules.  Library photo: Sebastien Goossens |SG9

Luxembourg already has police cooperation agreements with neighbouring countries. The EU is now pushing for bloc-wide rules.  Library photo: Sebastien Goossens |SG9

The European Commission has proposed a police cooperation code to combat cross-border crime, as almost 70% of criminal networks are active in three or more of its member states simultaneously.

The proposal on police cooperation by the commission will make it easier for police officers to operate in other EU countries. Common standards will be created for better cooperation between officers participating in joint operations and those acting in the territory of another EU state.

Margaritis Schinas, vice-president of the European Commission, during a press conference on Thursday reaffirmed the commission’s will to build “a robust security union with a single roof approach… to make Europe a safer place for all.”

Clearer rules for working across borders, effective access to information during cross-border operations and joint planning and risk analysis were all given as examples of curbing cross-border crimes, such as, drug crime, property crime and the trafficking of human beings.

“Our proposals today will solve very practical cross-border problems that police officers in Europe face every day,” commissioner for home affairs Ylva Johansson said.

Maybe most significantly, the commission wishes to promote a common EU culture of policing through joint trainings, including language courses or exchange programmes, institutionalising EU policing standards across the bloc, for all 27 countries.

The exchange, access and flow of information would also change under the proposals:

·       Criminal offences perpetrated within the EU will be made available to all other member states’ law enforcement authorities.

·      A permanent 24h ‘single point of contact’ will be used for all countries, acting as a central area of focus for all information exchange. Information can only be rejected should said information “jeopardise the success of an ongoing investigation”, “harm the vital interest of a person” or, rather vaguely stated by the commission “go against the essential interests of the security of the member state” leaving a fairly wide scope for interpretation of what “essential interests” could be.

·       Europol’s Secure Information Exchange Network Application (SIENA) will be made the default channel of communication. Furthermore, Europol will be copied into all exchanges regarding crimes which is considered to fall under its jurisdiction.       

·      Rules around the automated sharing of data, the so-called Prüm framework, are also revised, allowing the exchange of facial images (in addition to DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration data), all of which will be done through a new central interface, which national databases can connect to. EU states will retain ownership and control over the data, with the new interface acting “more like a message broker”.

Further to Europol’s increase in power, Europol will see its role within EU law enforcement increase, now with the ability to partake within the Prüm framework. However, EU member states will also be able to leverage Europol’s power, with the ability to automatically check biometric data from non-EU countries held at Europol.

Luxembourg is no stranger to working with its neighbours on such matters, however, with a police cooperation bill signed between the Benelux countries in 2008, which built upon on what was at the time, an ambitious “cross-border police intervention treaty” (2004). The Benelux countries have long been at the forefront of cross-border policies, being among the founding fathers of Schengen.

The proposals are now up for discussion with the European Council--the heads of state or government of the 27 EU members--and the European Parliament, before they can come into force.