Council steps up cross-border hot pursuit

New provisions have been proposed in the EU Council to extend police powers of surveillance and pursuit, particularly in border areas.

The Council decision, proposed on 19 July 2005, is intended to enhance security operations across borders. Explaining the measure, Franco Frattini said that the abolition of border controls provided by the Schengen agreement produced a ‘security deficit’ which enabled “perpetrators of criminal acts to move as freely as law abiding citizens”.

The proposals would amend the Schengen Convention to allow for hot pursuit (where police are pursuing a criminal who is on the run) across borders. It would build on the Hague programme policy of furthering exchange of information and pooling of equipment between police forces of different member states. The aim is to facilitate joint border patrols, joint surveillance operations and joint investigation teams. 

The move comes amid calls from some administrations for wholesale suspension of the Schengen agreement to impede the movements of terrorists. The French have decided to do so but, despite much argument in Italy, Interior Minister Pisanu announced that the move will not be made. Former Commission President Romano Prodi has said that it would be a step back for the EU and a major mistake to take such a step.

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