National law enforcement authorities need timely access to accurate and up-to-date information and criminal intelligence in order to prevent, detect and investigate criminal activity successfully.
The so-called Hague Programme (2005-2010) introduced the principle of "availability" as the guiding concept for law enforcement information exchange. This concept means that throughout the Union, information that is available to law enforcement authorities in one Member State should also be made accessible to law enforcement authorities in other Member States. The so-called Stockholm Programme (2010-2015) highlighted the need to further develop law enforcement cooperation instruments in the EU.
The Commission and EU agencies provide a number of tools to facilitate the exchange of information between national law enforcement authorities.
The Schengen Information System (SIS) is the most widely used information-sharing instrument today. Law enforcement authorities can use it to consult alerts on wanted or missing persons and objects, both inside the EU and at the EU external border. The SIS was upgraded in early 2015 to facilitate and accelerate information exchange on terrorist suspects and to reinforce the efforts of Member States to invalidate the travel documents of persons suspected of wanting to join terrorist groups outside the EU.
In 2012, the Commission adopted a Communication on the European Information Exchange Model (EIXM). The main legal instruments covered by EIXM are the so-called Prüm Decision, which allows amongst other, to exchange automatically on a ‘hit/no-hit’ basis fingerprints, DNA and vehicle registration data, and the Swedish Decision, which sets out how information should be exchanged between EU Member States. The Commission ordered in 2014 an external evaluation study to assess the extent to which Member States had implemented EIXM recommendations. The study showed that relevant activities had been implemented by Member States and by Europol, but that additional work still lies ahead. With the European Agenda on Security, the Commission highlights the core areas where further efforts are required, notably the full implementation of existing systems.
Europol supports Member States as the information hub for EU law enforcement. Its Secure Information Exchange Network Application (SIENA) enables authorities to exchange information in a swift, secure and user-friendly way with each other, with Europol, and with a number of third parties. Europol’s databases help law enforcement from different countries to work together by identifying common investigations, as well as providing the basis for strategic and thematic analysis.
In 2011, the Commission presented a proposal for a Directive aimed at creating an EU PNR (Passenger Name Record) system. According to the proposal, each Member States will collect passenger data from the airlines and will process these data for the prevention, detention, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime. The proposal contains a number of data protection safeguards, as well as detailed provisions concerning the exchange of PNR information between the Member States and between Member States and third countries.