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1st Jul 2022

Commission plan allows police to shoot suspects in other EU states

  • The EU Commission is recommending police be allowed to arrest and if necessary shoot suspects in other member states (Photo: bobbsled)
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Police, under proposals by the European Commission, would be allowed to chase suspects into other EU states and shoot them, if necessary.

"We propose a better police cooperation on the ground, that's boots on the ground," EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson told reporters on Wednesday (8 December).

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"That means for example, when a police officer in one member state is having a hot pursuit following a vehicle or a criminal that crosses the border," she said.

The 27-page proposal is only a recommendation for the Council, representing member states, and covers everything from murder to human-trafficking and migrant-smuggling.

It points to wider efforts by the commission to tighten police cooperation, including new binding rules that would allow for the automated exchange of biometric data like facial imagery in police records.

The Brussels-based European Digital Rights (EDRi) group, an NGO, has already criticised the measures seeking to automate the sharing of facial-recognition images and other sensitive data by police across the EU.

"This additional automation will explicitly remove vital procedural and judicial safeguards which are in place to make sure that our sensitive data are only shared with police forces," it said, in a statement.

It noted similar efforts in the Netherlands led to tens of thousands of people being wrongfully included in a facial-recognition database of the Dutch police.

"Imagine the potential harms when access to these databases grows to a European scale," it said.

It also criticised more expanded powers for the EU's police force, Europol, noting that sensitive biometric data of suspects from outside the EU are included in its scope.

But the commission says the proposals are needed.

It notes some 60 different bilateral and multilateral agreements among EU states when it comes to police cooperation.

The commission says its plan outlines new rules to simplify "hot pursuits", "cross-border surveillance" and "joint police" operations.

This includes allowing police officers in one member state to carry and use their service weapons, as well as make arrests through "means of coercion and physical force" in another member state.

Police carrying out surveillance in another EU state would also be allowed to use their guns.

The same applies to any joint operation where police from various EU states work together to crack down on migrant-smuggling, for instance.

"Both the pandemic but also the recent events in the [English] Channel show the added value of doing this," said vice-president Margaritis Schinas of the whole proposal.

"Very often the criminals, the organised crime networks, they have better cooperation across borders than our law enforcement agencies," he said.

Schinas said the plan fits into a larger effort to make the EU safer in the so-called Security Union, which covers everything from cyber crime to the protection of critical infrastructure.

Part of the focus deals with securing better ties with other countries like the United States.

But it also includes a new EU directive on information exchange between police and a regulation on automatic data exchange for police cooperation.

The EU has over the years made numerous similar proposals to tackle crime and terrorism, some of which date from 2001. Such proposals often follow terror attacks.

But these latest proposals come in the wake of Belarus border clashes with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

They also come amid moves by EU states to impose internal border checks.

Some of those checks were pandemic related but others are linked to migratory movements.

The commission is seeking to safeguard the Schengen border-free area, which it regards as sacrosanct to the European Union.

It will next week propose new plans to provide a legal definition of "instrumentalisation", a concept that involves using migrants and asylum seekers as geo-political pawns, as has been seen by the Minsk regime.

That definition will be introduced into the so-called Schengen Borders Code, which governs external border rules.

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The European Parliament has backed a moratorium on facial recognition for law-enforcement purposes - bypassing attempts to torpedo the ban on potential mass surveillance.

Amnesty: Belarus forces 'beat migrants seeking EU asylum'

Amnesty International documented numerous beatings by Belarus guards of migrants after being forced back into Belarus from EU states. The NGO spoke to 75 people lured to the borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia from Belarus.

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