Work is underway to enable France. Germany, and Spain to give access to each other to their respective criminal record databases. Tests are expected to begin before 2004 is over, and systematic information exchanges on offenders between the three countries will start next year. A joint working group was established by the three countries at the start of 2003 to provide solutions for any technical or legal difficulties that this initiative may entail. Press statements by the French and Spanish justice ministries stressed that the working group is responsible for guaranteeing that these information exchanges are characterised bs a high level of security and confidentiality. and for developing a system that may be easily extended to other countries.
The initiative was presented in Brussels on 19 July 2004. during a joint press conference by the Justice Ministers of the three countries. Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar for Spain, Dominique Perben for France and Brigitte Zypries for Germany, in which they invited the other EU member states to participate. The scope of this plan is to “ensure an improved access to the information available in the member States and to increase the effectiveness of judicial investigations”. Perben explained that “In a Europe without internal frontiers, it is indispensable that information about the authors of criminal offences should be available in the other member States”.
Perben said that the three countries agreed to link their respective national criminal record databases electronically at the start of 2003, to establish a model which could be extended into an EU-wide system to include the criminal record databases of all the EU member states. The benefits of this approach. described as a means to replace the current system of international formal judicial requests for information and to overcome the lengthy bureaucratic procedure this entails, would be to speed up the process by creating a system of automated information exchanges, whereby judges would request information about individuals from their own national criminal record database, which would in turn transmit the request to its counterpart in another participating country from which the information is sought. Information on anyone who has ever been convicted for any criminal offence would be made available to the requesting country.
Lopez Aguilar, the Spanish Justice Minister, highlighted one of the “positive aspects” of this initiative that would allow judges to consider the aggravating circumstance of “repeat offences at an international level”, envisaged in Spain for crimes involving terrorism, the corruption of minors and drug trafficking. He also argued that the authorities must “adapt to the current social situation, in which the mobility of persons and, consequently, of crime, are no longer an exception, but rather the general rule”.
French Justice ministry press .statement, 19.7.04,
Spanish Justice ministry press statement, 19.7.04,
El Pais 20.7.04.