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Europol: new structure and mandate
The aim of this proposal for a Decision is to transform the European Police Office into an EU agency with competence extending beyond organised crime and covering all forms of serious cross-border crime. The new EUROPOL will be able to use new data-processing tools and will be subject to new personal data protection provisions.
Proposal for a Council Decision establishing the European Police Office (EUROPOL) [COM(2006) 817 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
Following the discussions on the development of the European Police Office, the Commission has presented a proposal to replace the Europol Convention by a Council Decision. This change firstly entails the transformation of the Office into a European agency, resulting in the following advantages:
- the organisation would be financed from the Community budget;
- the role of the European Parliament would be enhanced, in particular through budgetary control;
- the EU Staff Regulations would be applied to its staff;
- in this way, Europol would be on a par with other bodies and agencies created subsequently, such as CEPOL and Eurojust.
The proposal for a Decision integrates the amendments made to the Convention by the three Protocols of 2000, 2001 and 2002 (see background below) and suggests improvements concerning the mandate and tasks of the Office and data processing and protection.
New competence and tasks for Europol
Article 4 of the proposal extends the mandate of the organisation to cover all forms of serious cross-border crime, as defined in Annex I. The new list of offences regarded as serious crime includes the forms of organised crime and terrorism, but also adds others, such as murder, organised or armed robbery, swindling and rape.
As regards its tasks, EUROPOL will be able to provide support (not operational, but more in terms of analysis) to Member States in connection with the organisation of international events with a public order policing impact. It will henceforth be able to receive information from private bodies for use in the framework of its traditional activities.
Information processing: new tools and common provisions
New systems for processing personal data can be added to the main systems already established and used by the European Police Office (notably the information system and analysis work files). This could refer, for example, to new databases on terrorist groups or child pornography sites. For these new tools, the Council, after consulting the European Parliament, would determine the conditions on data access, usage and storage.
Article 10 of the proposal also provides that Europol must make every effort to ensure that its data-processing systems are interoperable with those in the Member States and especially with those in use by the EU-related bodies with which Europol may establish relations.
As regards access to the data contained in the information system already in place - EIS - Article 7 provided that the national units could consult these data, but only in the case of need for a specific enquiry and via the liaison officers. Article 11 of the new proposals allows the national units full and direct access to all the information available in the EIS.
As regards analysis work files, Europol would be required to delete them after a period of three years unless, at the end of this period, it considered the continuation of a given file to be strictly necessary. In this case, files could be continued for new periods of three years (Article 16). As in the Europol Convention, these files are opened for the purposes of analysis, defined as the assembly, processing or utilisation of data with the aim of helping a criminal investigation.
The same time limit for storage is established for all the data contained in the information system and the files: the need for the continued storage of the file must be reviewed no later than three years after their input. The new Article 20 provides that this review must be carried out by the inputting unit (in the case of data stored in the EIS) or by Europol for other Europol data files.
The control mechanisms to verify the legality of retrievals from the automated data files used to process personal data are also to be strengthened by increasing the audit data storage period from six to eighteen months (Article 18).
Data protection and data security
As regards the collection, processing and utilisation of personal data, this proposal will take account of the Council Framework Decision on the protection of personal data processed in the framework of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.
A new post of Data Protection Officer will be created, with independent duties and free access to all the data held by Europol and to all its premises. The Officer will have the task of ensuring compliance with the provisions, including the protection of all personal data processed by Europol.
Europol administration and bodies
The European Police Office is and will continue to be headed by a director, appointed by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, for a four-year period that is extendable once. The director will be assisted in his or her tasks, and in particular performance of the tasks assigned to Europol, day-to-day administration, implementing the budget, legal representation of Europol, etc., by three deputy directors whose term of office extends over the same period.
The Management Board, currently composed of one representative of each Member State, will be composed of one delegation from each country, with a single vote. The Commission, which at present participates as an observer, will be entitled to three votes, and even six votes for the adoption of the budget and the work programme. The Management Board will meet at least twice and no more than four times a year. The two-thirds majority becomes the general rule for its decisions (at present, unanimity).
With the transformation of the Office into a European agency, the staff will become staff of the European Communities.
The Europol budget, based on intergovernmental financing, amounts to EUR 68 million for 2007. From 1 January 2010, the revenues of Europol will be entered in the general budget of the European Union. An amount of EUR 334 million is allocated to Europol for the period 2010-2013, in accordance with its latest five-year financial plan.
The European Police Force (Europol) was created in 1995 on the basis of a Convention, which entered into force on 1 October 1998 after ratification by all the Member States. Many legal decisions relating to this Convention preceded the actual start-up of all the activities of the Office on 1 July 1999.
Three Protocols have amended the Convention (in 2000, 2002 and 2003), the first two entering into force on 29 March 2007 and the third on 18 April 2007. The first Protocol extends Europol's mandate to cover money laundering, whereas the other two strengthen the Office's powers in the field of assistance to Member States by enabling it, in particular, to coordinate joint investigation teams, to make requests to initiate investigations, to allow the participation of third countries (with which Europol has concluded operational agreements) in analysis groups, etc.
The discussions which took place under the Austrian and Finnish Presidencies showed that, even after the entry into force of the three Protocols, further improvements to Europol's functioning would be necessary. The informal JHA Council in January 2006 relaunched the discussions on Europol's future, and each amendment proposed in the Council Options paper 9184/1/06 entails an amendment to its legal framework. The Council Conclusions of June 2006, presented to the Council of December 2006, suggested that the amendment of Europol's legal framework should take the form of a Council Decision.
On the basis of these conclusions, the Commission presented this proposal for a Decision on 20 December 2006.
For further information:
European Police Office - EUROPOL website
Europol Joint Supervisory Body website
"Justice, Freedom and Security" of the JLS Directorate-General of the European Commission:
"Area of freedom, security and justice" website of the European Parliament:
- Fact sheet: EUROPOL