EU to improve digital information exchange in fight against terrorism

EU to improve digital information exchange in fight against terrorism
Police working on a terrorism case. Credit: Belga

European justice ministers have agreed on several measures to step up the EU's fight against terrorism in the EU, primarily by facilitating the digital information exchange in terrorism cases across borders.

The proposals for additional measures are part of "ongoing efforts to modernise and digitalise cross-border judicial cooperation," and will make it easier for prosecutors and judges to exchange information about (possible) terrorists and other criminals across EU Member States' borders.

The Council approved the general approaches during a meeting on Thursday, in light of the growing number of criminals and terrorists acting across borders.

"The permanent exchange is absolutely vital in situations like this," European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said.

Replacing decentralised system

The exchange of terror information in the EU has already been significantly strengthened since the Paris attacks in 2015, but there are still some Member States that do not transfer information to The Hague on a permanent basis.

Under the current system, Member States share information with Eurojust, the EU agency dealing with judicial co-operation in criminal matters, on cases related to terrorism, however, this is done via various channels, of which all information is then registered on a "technically outdated system that does not allow for proper cross-checking of information."

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These shortcomings will now be tackled, allowing Eurojust to play a more proactive role in supporting coordination and cooperation between the various national authorities investigating and prosecuting terrorist offences, and should make it easier for authorities to discover links between investigations and ongoing prosecutions.

Once the system is implemented, Member States will have to use a new secure digital channel to send information to Eurojust about all criminal investigations into terrorism offences as soon as the case is referred to the judicial authorities in the country in question.

EU justice ministers also called for the creation of a platform for the coordination of joint investigation teams, which will allow the authorities of the Member States participating in such a team to exchange operational information and evidence rapidly.

The Council defined its position for the negotiations with the European Parliament, which still has to approve the text.

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