One of the terrorists who took part in the series of attacks on November 13, 2015 in Paris killing 130 people and injuring hundreds more — was able to cross from Europe by ferry and meet jihadists in the UK, despite having an international arrest warrant out on him.
Abdelhamid Abaaoud, along with other attackers — including Salah Abdeslam, who was also known to the law agencies — was able to travel unchecked between Syria and Europe, bringing calls for better intelligence-sharing.
The Netherlands — which currently hold the presidency of the Council of the EU — is pushing for more powers for law agencies Europol and Interpol to counter terrorism. Although there are already international protocols in place, the Dutch want Europol and Interpol to be able to share a greater amount of intelligence on their databases.
Now, the European Commission is proposing changes to the already existing European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) which currently allows for the swift sharing of criminal records of EU citizens. However, the major flaw identified after the Paris attacks was that the system does not include non-EU citizens.
This has led to Belgian media suggesting that if any of the refugees involved in the New Years' Day assaults in Cologne, Germany have criminal records and wanted to claim asylum in Belgium, the system would not automatically pick them up.
Tackling Cross-Border Crime
Vera Jourova, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: "The Paris attacks in November confirmed the urgent need for more robust and seamless judicial cooperation throughout the EU. ECRIS is an important tool against cross-border crime, as it enables Member States to exchange information on previous convictions anywhere in the EU.
"Today we propose to upgrade this tool to ensure easier access to the convictions of non-EU citizens. Judges, prosecutors or the police will be better equipped for EU-wide cooperation that will guarantee the security of all citizens throughout the EU. By including fingerprints of non-EU citizens we will have a strong tool to tackle the use of false identities," Jourova said.
The proposals include simplifying searches for non-EU nationals' criminal records, which will encourage national authorities to make more use of ECRIS. By including an index of criminal records of non-EU citizens in the ECRIS system, Member States searching for previous criminal records of non-EU nationals will no longer need to send requests to all Member States.
This reduces costs and administrative burden for national authorities. It will also be easier for non-EU nationals to show they have a clean criminal record, which is particularly important for employment purposes.