COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEANPARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCILOverview of information management in the area of freedom, security and justice1.
The European Union has come a long way since the leaders of five European countries agreedin Schengen in 1985 to abolish controls at their common borders. Their agreement gave risein 1990 to the Schengen Convention, which contained the seeds of many of today’sinformation management policies. The abolition of internal border checks has spurred thedevelopment of a whole range of measures at external frontiers, mainly concerning the issuingof visas, the coordination of asylum and immigration policies and the strengthening of police, judicial and customs cooperation in the fight against cross-border crime. Neither the Schengenarea nor the EU internal market could function today without cross-border data exchange.The terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001, as well as the bombings in Madrid andLondon in 2004 and 2005, triggered another dynamic in the development of Europe’sinformation management policies. In 2006, the Council and the European Parliament adoptedthe Data Retention Directive to enable national authorities to combat serious crime byretaining telecommunication traffic and location data.
The Council then took up the Swedishinitiative to simplify the cross-border exchange of information in criminal investigations andintelligence operations. In 2008, it endorsed the Prüm Decision to speed up the exchange of DNA profiles, fingerprints and vehicle registration data in the fight against terrorism andother forms of crime. Cross-border cooperation between Financial Intelligence Units, AssetRecovery Offices and cybercrime platforms and the Member States’ use of Europol andEurojust constitute further tools in the fight against serious crime in the Schengen area.In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, the US governmentestablished its Terrorist Finance Tracking Program to thwart similar plots by monitoringsuspicious financial transactions. The European Parliament has recently given its consent tothe conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union and the United States of America on the processing and transfer of Financial Messaging Data from the EuropeanUnion to the United States for the purposes of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (EU-US TFTP Agreement).
The exchange of Passenger Name Records (PNR) with third countrieshas also helped the EU to combat terrorism and other forms of serious crime.
There is currently no harmonised EU definition of ‘serious crime.’ For example, the Council Decisionthat empowers Europol to consult VIS(Council Decision 2008/633/JHA,OJ L 218, 13.8.2008, p. 129)defines ‘serious criminal offences’ with reference to the list of offences set out in the European ArrestWarrant (Council Decision 2002/584/JHA, OJ L 190, 18.7.2002, p. 1). The Data Retention Directive(Directive 2002/58/EC, OJ L 105, 13.4.2006, p. 54) leaves it to Member States to define ‘seriouscrime.’ The Europol Decision (Council Decision 2009/371/JHA, OJ L 121, 15.5.2009, p. 37) containsanother list of offences defined as ‘serious crime,’ which is very similar, but not identical, to the listcontained in the European Arrest Warrant.
European Parliament Resolution, P7_TA-PROV(2010)0279, 8.7.2010.
In contrast to serious crime, ‘terrorist offences’ are clearly defined in the Council Framework Decisionon combating terrorism (Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA, OJ L 164, 22.6.2002, p. 3;amended by Council Framework Decision 2008/919/JHA, OJ L 330, 9/12/2008, p. 21).