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Debates
Monday, 11 March 2019 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Exchange of information on third country nationals and European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) - Centralised system for the identification of Member States holding conviction information on third country nationals and stateless persons (ECRIS-TCN) (debate)
MPphoto
 

  Daniel Dalton, Rapporteur. – Mr President, sharing information across borders is essential to fight crime and terrorism in a world where people are increasingly mobile and cross-border crime is on the rise. The existing rules make it easier for non-EU nationals to hide crimes they have committed on EU soil than it is for EU nationals. This means that today, under the current European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), there is an efficient and effective way to identify previous criminal convictions for EU nationals but not for third-country nationals.

At present, officials who suspect a non-EU national has a criminal past can only find those convictions by individually asking all 27 other Member States. This means that previous criminal records are rarely found. It is a gaping legal loophole which leaves people in the EU less safe. This regulation is an important step to close these loopholes and improve information-sharing and cooperation between Member States in the fight against cross-border crime and terrorism. At the core, this is about ensuring judicial authorities have a complete picture when carrying out their work, meaning they can apply sentences fairly.

We can all agree that non-EU nationals should not find themselves with more rights than EU citizens in the EU itself. Getting the right balance on this was important to all the groups, especially ensuring that there was no discrimination to EU nationals, who would be included if they had a third-country nationality as well. I believe that we have got this balance right and we won some significant safeguards in those negotiations, particularly regarding fingerprints. Our legal services see no discrimination in the text.

This legislation closes the gap, while also providing a fair balance between protecting the rights of individuals and ensuring that past convictions are correctly attributed.

We have ensured safeguards on how specific and targeted information can be shared. This is not a database that can simply be browsed through. There is no conviction data stored in the central database and so there is no differentiation of treatment between EU and third-country nationals, as both the EU and the third-country national systems ultimately result in the same outcome, i.e. that Member States’ judicial authorities are able to request previous criminal conviction information from the relevant Member State so that that can be taken into account for the sentencing of new convictions.

Critically, the inclusion of dual nationals in this system means that nationals of both a third-country and an EU Member State can’t hide their past criminal convictions in the EU simply by disclosing only one of their passports. Let me be clear here as there is some misunderstanding, especially within the ALDE Group. This is for EU convictions only, so no Turkish convictions or convictions from any other non-EU Member State are involved – it’s only EU convictions. If we don’t have this system, authorities will have to make judgment calls on which system to search, and that would probably mean profiling based on race and name. I don’t believe we want to see that.

In addition, the collection of the fingerprints for dual nationals will be exactly the same as for EU nationals. Overall, this is about ensuring judicial authorities have a complete picture in order to react adequately and to apply the right measures. Let me be clear, if colleagues here vote to reopen the deal you are putting your own citizens at risk. You are saying you want to discriminate against EU citizens in the EU, and you admit that you want some people to be able to hide serious criminal convictions, convictions which have been handed down on EU soil. This deal was voted through the LIBE Committee with a considerable majority. The Legal Services of all three institutions agree that there is no discrimination. It is a good agreement. We fought well and we got a lot in this Parliament, so I commend this to the Parliament, we should support it.

 
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