Developing the European surveillance society: German proposal on police access to Eurodac data
Following-up the Commission's communication of 2005 on so-called 'interoperability', the German delegation to the Police Co-operation Working Party of the Council has set out plans for police access to the Eurodac database - which contains the fingerprints of all those applying for asylum in the EU, or who are caught attempting to cross the external borders of the EU without authorisation. The paper informs the EU Police Co-operation Working Party of the German delegation's intention to prepare a proposal for a Council third pillar decision on access by law enforcement services to Eurodac.
This paper makes clear that, in the event of a 'hit' on the fingerprints in the Eurodac database, further information such as the name of the asylum-seeker, passport and residence details, and his or her transit routes will be shared between Member States, in the same way as such details are shared in the event of a 'hit' indicating a multiple asylum application, according to the EU's 'Dublin II' rules (EC Regulation 343/2003). It remains to be seen what detailed data protection rights for individuals will be proposed, but the paper makes no reference to the proposed Framework Decision on data protection rights in the 'third pillar'.
The long-heard guarantees of Eurodac data security appear to have been dropped by Commission officials, who once said that the only thing they could not guarantee was that the security services of member states could not gain access in some way to Eurodac. The Commission itself is now advocating such access and the German Presidency appears eager to ensure that it will become a reality. The justification for this change is that information in the Eurodac database 'can be important in preventing and combating terrorism'. The original highly limited purpose for which the Eurodac data was collected - the identification of a Member State responsible for considering an asylum application - has been overridden.
An in-depth discussion on the proposals in the Council's police cooperation working party was planned for Friday 12th January 2007, following which the German delegation planned to prepare a draft Council Decision.
The German Presidency has not yet decided whether it will bother to suggest an amendment to the Eurodac Regulation of 2000, which established Eurodac for its original very limited purpose. If no amendment is made to the Eurodac Regulation, then the Presidency will simply be circumventing the co-decision powers of the European Parliament.
In accordance with the Commission's proposed principle of 'interoperability', data in the Visa Information System and immigration data in the Schengen Information System will also be available to police services - allowing for enhanced information exchange among police services on millions of third-country nationals and contributing to the public perception of a link between crime and immigration.
1. Policy document concerning access to Eurodac by Member States' police and law enforcement authorities, dated 20th December 2006, doc. 16982/06, ENFOPOL 225, EURODAC 19
2. Communication to the Council on improved effectiveness, enhanced interoperability and synergies among European databases in the area of Justice and Home Affairs dated 24th November 2006, doc. 15122/05 CATS 82, ASIM 61, COMIX 805
3. Regulation 2725/2000 on Eurodac
4. Draft Regulation on Visa Information System, dated 25 October 2006, doc. 14359/06.
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