Migration and Home Affairs

Information exchange

Timely access to accurate and up-to-date information and criminal intelligence is essential for national law enforcement authorities 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 for coherence and consolidation in developing further law enforcement cooperation instruments in the EU.

The Commission and the 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. The Commission will evaluate the SIS in 2015-2016 to assess if new operational needs require legislative changes, such as introducing additional categories to trigger alerts.

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 Council Decision and the Swedish Initiative. EIXM took stock of the EU information exchanges landscape and recommended concrete steps on how to increase the efficiency and improve the application of existing cooperation instruments. 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.

Europol also supports Member States by providing information exchange and analysis capabilities, notably through its Secure Information Exchange Network Application (SIENA). SIENA enables Member States to exchange information in a swift, secure and user-friendly way with each other, with Europol, or with third parties that have a cooperation agreement with Europol.

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.

Following the April 2014 judgment of the European Court of Justice which declared the Data Retention Directive invalid, the Commission will continue monitoring the developments at national level, and will launch a wide-ranging consultation with relevant stakeholders aimed at assessing the possible future need for, and added value of, EU solutions for the use of communications data.