INTERNATIONAL

E.U. to share data to combat crime

Ian Traynor

A battery of police data-sharing and electronic surveillance measures to tackle trans-national crime and immigration issues has been agreed by Governments in Europe, 15 of which also gave the green light to a scheme for the world's biggest biometric system.

The system will store and allow sharing of data such as the photographs and fingerprints of up to 70 million non-E.U. citizens applying for visas to enter European Union countries.

Interior Ministers from all 27 E.U. countries also agreed on automatic access to genetic information, fingerprints, and car registration details in police databases across the Union.

The accord, set in Luxembourg and propelling a 2005 treaty into E.U. law, means police forces in one country will be able to enter the DNA details of a suspect in a European database, then obtain police information from another country if the DNA record hits a match elsewhere.

Germany, which has been driving the data-sharing campaign for the past six months, hailed the accord as ``an important day for Europe''. Wolfgang Schaeuble, German Interior Minister, said the pact was an ``important element of a European information network''.

The Germans and Austrians, who have been sharing DNA information on criminal suspects since December, are already claiming successes. According to the Austrian police the scheme led to the identification of a double-murder suspect: the arrest of a suspected burglar in Vienna in March, involving his genetic code being fed into the database, led to the discovery that the man was wanted over the murder of two people in Tenerife two years ago.

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007

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