Just back from Luxembourg where I went to the EU interior ministers’ meeting.
On the train home I tried to spot the exact border between Belgium and Luxembourg. But it was only through car number plates and a change in mobile phone operator that I could first tell we’d entered another country.
People love to talk up Europe’s open internal frontiers and the right to slip across national borders. But recognising that criminals don’t respect frontiers, the EU is starting to hoard and share a massive amount of information on those inside.
At this meeting alone, members agreed to:
-Link all countries DNA profile, fingerprint and car registration databases (although no-one’s quite sure how they’ll do this)
-Swap national criminal records to track convicted criminals
-Set up a database to share information on visa applications from non-EU citizens to 13 EU countries, as well as Norway and Iceland. It will hold digitalised photos and fingerprints of up to 70m people.
For years, Europe struggled to make big decisions on cross-border crime-fighting. Now the moves are coming thick and fast on information-sharing and electronic surveillance.
And they’re taking place before the EU has reached a fresh data protection deal. Criticism of this week’s decisions was relatively muted, although a Tory MEP did say that a Big Brother Europe was emerging.
But wait, for example, until British holidaymakers realise that their DNA sample and car registration number is automatically available to Spanish police, and it could all be very different.