EU Road-Safety Info Exchange Given the Boot
(CN) - Police cooperation fouled up a plan by EU lawmakers to streamline how authorities share driver information across member state lines, the European Court of Justice ruled Tuesday.
The law as proposed by the European Commission in 2008 would have made it easier for authorities in member states to share information about traffic scofflaws in the name of road safety.
Before the bill passed in 2011, however, its purpose had shifted to one of law-enforcement cooperation. It set up a procedure by which police across the EU could share and link drivers via their vehicle registrations to eight different traffic offenses including speeding, running red lights and drunken driving.
The commission sued to overturn the law it had first proposed, claiming lawmakers had muddied the original goal of highway safety by passing it in the name of police cooperation. Lawmakers and individual member states intervened, arguing that the bill's true objective had always been penal in nature and that safety was just an indirect benefit.
The EU's highest court found Tuesday that while the law would have improved the ability to collect fines for traffic infractions committed by drivers living in other member states, both the aim and content of the bill underscored highway safety first.
With the Lisbon Treaty, the scope of what constitutes police cooperation has increased in recent years but its purpose has been to fight more serious crimes than driving without a helmet or seat belt, the Luxembourg-based court added.
"While it is true that the scope of police cooperation is greater than under the former Treaty on European Union, the fact remains that that cooperation continues to concern the competent authorities of the member states, including the police, customs and other specialized law enforcement services of the member states 'in relation to the prevention, detection and investigation of criminal offences,'" the decision states.
"Second, the EU constitution requires that the European Union 'shall ensure the absence of internal border controls for persons and shall frame a common policy on asylum, immigration and external border control' and that it 'shall endeavor to ensure a high level of security through measures to prevent and combat crime, racism and xenophobia, and through measures for coordination and cooperation between police and judicial authorities and other competent authorities, as well as through the mutual recognition of judgments in criminal matters and, if necessary, through the approximation of criminal laws,'" the court continued.
The law took effect this past November EU-wide and it can remain in effect for a year, at the commission's request, while lawmakers draft a properly motivated version "given the importance of the improvement of road safety," the court said.