Plans are underway for European police to work together more efficiently in order to fight criminal networks that are increasingly operating on a transnational level.
The European Commission says that the pandemic has exposed the loopholes in cross-border police cooperation, with criminal networks often better organised than the police and the systems they have in place.
And this has pushed Brussels to present a proposal to reinforce cooperation among national police departments.
"Criminals should not be able to escape police simply by moving from one Member State to another. Today, we are proposing rules to help police officers throughout the EU work together to catch criminals," Vice-President of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas told reporters on Wednesday.
"Having clear channels for information exchange will mean that police can quickly identify suspects and gather the information they need for investigations," Schinas said.
According to Europol data, around 65% of criminal networks active in the EU are composed of members of multiple nationalities. More impressively, 80 per cent of the organised criminal groups are involved in cross-border crimes.
The new proposals target exactly these networks and crimes, which include the smuggling of drugs, people, and migrants.
"The pandemic has changed many things and certainly not for the better -- for the worse," Juan Fernando López Aguilar, a Spanish socialist MEP told Euronews.
"It has aroused an incredible tide of criminal offenses online, particularly cruel [crimes against] the most vulnerable people, underaged minors and children."
"Child sexual abuse has multiplied throughout the pandemic, with grooming and solicitation having multiplied. So, it's essential that law enforcement agencies are provided with the proper tools in order to tackle and crackdown on serious cross border crimes," López Aguilar said.
Information exchange will be key to the new system, with the establishment of a central router where national databases will be harmonised in one database, replacing the many bilateral connections.
Pressed on data protection, the Commission made clear that this central router will only act as a message broker, while member states will retain ownership and control over their data.