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DRESDEN, GermanyThe European Union has agreed to step-up efforts to combat terrorism, cross-border crime and illegal immigration.
The EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers have agreed to transpose the so-called Prüm Treaty on cross-border police cooperation into the Union's legal framework.
The Treaty of Prüm, signed on May 27, 2005, is a convention between seven EU countriesBelgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria and Spain.
The treaty aims to create a network between existing national databases by granting participating countries automated access to each other's data, including DNA databases, national fingerprint files and motor vehicle registries.
The transposition of the convention into the EU's legal framework will enable other member states to join the data-sharing network.
Finland, Italy, Portugal and Slovenia have already said that they will accede to the treaty.
"Our aim is to create a modern police information network for more effective crime control throughout Europe", said German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble after this week's informal EU meeting in Dresden, Germany.
Mr. Schäuble explained that, under the treaty, Austria and Germany have been able to check the contents of their national DNA databases against each other.
The minister said that this had enabled them to find 1,500 German people in the Austrian database and 1,400 Austrians in the German one.
These previously untraceable people were identified in just six weeks, he said.Formal discussions on the Prüm Treaty's transposition into the EU legislation will take place at a Council meeting on February 15-16.
EU Interior Ministers also announced their intent to work closely on migration and development issues with the countries of origin and transit at the EU's eastern and southern borders, following the Dresden meeting.
The Ministers used the announcement to reaffirm that protection of the common external borders and the fight against illegal migration are their "highest priority."