At the informal meeting of EU home affairs ministers in Dresden today, the Federal Minister of the Interior, Dr Wolfgang Schäuble, presented an initiative to transpose the Prüm Treaty into the legal framework of the EU by drafting EU legislation using the exact wording of the Prüm Treaty.
The treaty, which was signed by seven European states (Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria and Spain) in the town of Prüm, provides for greater cross-border cooperation of police and judicial authorities, particularly in combating terrorism, cross-border crime and illegal migration.
The core element of the treaty is the creation of a network of national databases to step up the exchange of information.
By now, four additional Member States (Finland, Italy, Portugal and Slovenia) have declared their intention to accede to the treaty. Germany and Austria have already begun to check the contents of their national databases against each other.
Minister Schäuble commented as follows:
“With the initiative we hope to transpose the wording of the Prüm Treaty into EU legislation to make the added value provided by the treaty available to all 27 EU Member States. Our aim is to create a modern police information network for more effective crime control throughout Europe.
“The special value of the treaty lies in the substantially improved and efficiently organized procedures for the exchange of information. Promising results have been achieved after the initial implementation phase, which demonstrates that the Prüm Treaty contributes significantly to strengthening internal security in Europe.
“For example, under the treaty Austria and Germany have been able to check the contents of their national DNA databases against each other since early December 2006.
This is the first time that two countries have granted each other access to their national police databases using a hit/no hit method.
In just six weeks, when German untraceables were checked against the Austrian database, 1500 matches were found, and when Austrian untraceables were checked against the German database, 1400 matches resulted.
“On the basis of these results, where untraceables could be matched with a person in the database, police investigators are now able to match hits with unsolved crimes.
Thus, it can be expected that Germany and Austria will be able to solve unsolved crimes and prosecute and punish the offenders.
“These figures are proof that the idea behind the Prüm Treaty to create a network of existing national databases is a simple, yet very effective means to fight cross-border crime and international terrorism.
The exchange of information under the Prüm Treaty also extends to granting other Member States access to national fingerprint files and motor vehicle registries. We want to gradually begin with sharing such information already in the first half of this year.
“With a view to more effective crime control in Europe, all European states should participate in the Prüm Treaty.
Therefore, I am pleased that the proposal to transpose the Prüm Treaty into EU law, which was submitted informally by the German Presidency together with the other Prüm signatories and the European Commission today, has been so very well received.
With this in mind, we want to take up formal discussions at the next meeting of justice and home affairs ministers in Brussels on 15/16 February.”
In addition, the treaty entered into force in Austria and Spain on 1 November 2006, as it did in Germany on 23 November 2006. Luxembourg ratified the treaty at the end of December. The other signatories are also making efforts to have the treaty ratified by spring 2007. (McCanns by then were in the frame and willing accomplices)
On the basis of the treaty, the participating states may now give one another automated access to specific national databases.
This amounts to a quantum leap in the cross-border sharing of information. For example, the contracting states have full and direct online read access to vehicle registration data held by their partners.
The contracting parties give one another access to their DNA analysis files and dactyloscopic (fingerprint) files in what is called a hit/no hit system.
Police services may launch a query in the data system of a contracting partner to find out whether it contains data concerning a specific profile, and are automatically informed of the result within a matter of minutes.
Further information, such as personal data, may be communicated in the course of mutual legal assistance.
The treaty also contains provisions concerning the exchange of information relevant for counter-terrorism and data concerning travelling violent offenders.
To prevent terrorist offences, personal information about potential perpetrators of terrorist attacks may also be communicated.
The treaty allows the authorities to exchange information on travelling violent offenders, such as hooligans, in the context of major events (for example football matches, European Council meetings or other international summits) in order to prevent criminal acts.
Furthermore, the Prüm Treaty is a means to improve police cooperation by operational measures.
The treaty provides for various types of joint operations such as joint patrols and cross-border intervention to avert immediate danger, and for granting executive powers to police officers of other contracting states.
For example, police officers from another Member State may be deployed to enhance security at large-scale public events such as the European Football Championship or an EU summit, while being granted the same rights and duties as police officers from the host country.
A positive aspect worthy of particular mention is the comprehensive range of modern data protection regulations.
As the drafters of the Prüm Treaty sought to further develop European cooperation, the treaty was designed with its transposing into the legal framework of the EU in mind.