New measures to improve the sharing of criminal records information between EU Member States strike the right balance between security and individual rights.
The legislation, which is being piloted through the European Parliament by UK Conservative MEP Dan Dalton, was approved today by the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee.
It will establish a database of third country nationals whose criminal record details are held by an EU Member State. At present legal authorities across the EU exchange information via the European Criminal Records Information Service, but if, for instance, the UK were to arrest and prosecute an individual from outside the bloc they currently have no way of knowing if they might have a criminal record in Spain. The new database will close that loophole by providing details of where such information is held and identification details such as fingerprints and facial images.
Mr Dalton said: "The fast, reliable exchange of information is key in the fight against crime at all levels. This measure aims to make it harder for criminals to slip through the net.
"The inclusion of facial images on the database will improve the accuracy of searches and help prevent cases of mistaken identity.
"However, strong safeguards must be built in whenever personal information is held centrally. Therefore I have included guarantees that requests for correction and deletion are dealt with swiftly.
"I have also agreed that EU citizens holding dual nationality with a third country should not be included on the database to avoid creating two classes of EU citizenship."
The database will also provide criminal record checks when third country nationals apply for jobs working with children or vulnerable persons.
The legislation now moves into trilogue talks between the Parliament, the European Council and European Commission before being voted on by all MEPs.