Blair accused of sell-out as Britain signs on to EU police DNA database
Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray
Tony Blair was accused of a European constitution "sell-out" today after the Government pooled more police co-operation to help fight cross-border crime and terrorism.
A two-year-old agreement between just seven EU countries now becomes part of EU law, involving all 27 nations including the UK.
Under-secretary of state for the Home Office Joan Ryan, signing up on behalf of the UK at talks in Luxembourg, said afterwards it was an example of the EU countries working together on law enforcement to protect the public.
But Tory MEPs said the so-called "Prum Convention" now opened up sweeping personal data-sharing across the EU, obliging UK police to exchange DNA and fingerprint records and vehicle registration and driving licence details.
Conservative European Parliament spokesman on justice and home affairs Philip Bradbourn said that much of what had been agreed was originally part of the EU Constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters.
That included plans to give police forces the right of cross-border pursuit, enabling foreign police to enter the UK and arrest UK citizens suspected of crimes abroad.
Mr Bradbourn said: "Mr Blair has started the constitution sell-out today. Now everyone's personal details can be sent to police throughout Europe because Britain did not wield the veto.
"This Prum treaty fundamentally goes against the rules of data protection and civil liberties that we have come to expect in Europe.
"This one-size-fits-all approach is clearly inapplicable for countries with very different legal traditions, and even senior police in the UK have called for this treaty to be scrapped, proposing that voluntary bilateral agreements between member states should be the way forward in security co-operation."
Ms Ryan said the measures would help protect the public "by improving the ability of law enforcement authorities across the EU to share information with each other".
She went on: "Criminals do not respect borders. It is therefore vitally important that our law enforcement authorities have the tools available to obtain information held by other EU countries as quickly as possible to help with the investigation and prevention of crime."
The minister added: "This is another positive example of how the EU can work together on practical measures that will bring real benefits to law enforcement across Europe."
The Prum Convention is an accord originally signed in Prum, Germany, between Belgium. Germany, Spain, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Austria.
It obliges countries to open to other Prum signatories DNA and fingerprint "reference data" from national files "for the investigation of criminal offences".
National law enforcement agencies can conduct automated searches of DNA and fingerprint profiles in the member states.
And member states must allow each other access to search national vehicle registration data, including details of owners and operators "for the prevention and investigation of criminal offences and in dealing with other offences coming within the jurisdiction of the courts or the public prosecution service in the searching state, as well as in maintaining public order and security". "This provides us with a very important source of information," German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters after EU justice and interior ministers gave final approval to the German initiative to cut red tape on cross-border police cooperation.
Britain had previously expressed worries over the cost of connecting national databases. EU officials said the price of linking networks was minimal.
EU data protection officials and the European Parliament also demanded the measures apply better privacy and data protection provisions, something the EU ministers agreed to work out in the months ahead.
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