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European Commission


Brussels, 27 March 2013

Questions and Answers: Enhancing Europol's support to law enforcement cooperation and training

What does the Commission propose?

The Commission's proposal aims to improve the overall law enforcement cooperation in the EU by making Europol the hub for information sharing and analysis on serious crime, as well as the EU's single law enforcement training entity.

Analysis of information is the cornerstone of modern intelligence-led law enforcement activities. The proposed Regulation boosts Europol's analytical capabilities as it will be better equipped to receive - from Member States and from third countries – relevant information on crime, and - thanks to modern IT and data management rules - to produce more accurate analysis in support of cross-border investigations.

The gathering, analysis and dissemination of such information entails the exchange of personal data. The proposed Regulation therefore includes very high standards of data protection and data security, increases Europol's accountability and improves its governance. It also sets out a mechanism for the control of Europol's activities by the European Parliament and the national Parliaments.

Finally, the proposal makes Europol responsible for joint training and exchange programmes for police and other law enforcement personnel (in line with the Communication on Law Enforcement Training Scheme which accompanies the Regulation).

Why merging Cepol within Europol?

Merging Europol and Cepol into a single agency, situated at the current headquarters of Europol in The Hague, will create synergies and efficiency gains.

Combining the operational police cooperation know-how of Europol with the training and educational expertise of Cepol will strengthen the links between the two fields. Contacts between the operational and the training staff working within a single agency will help identify training needs and tailor activities to the benefit of EU police cooperation overall.

Duplication of support functions in the two agencies will be avoided. Following the merger of Cepol within Europol, an estimated €17.2 million saving would be reached over the 2015-2020 period (in particular as a result of lower costs of building, equipment, redeployment of staff) and could be reinvested in training.

What should be improved in training?

Training of law enforcement officers is of key importance for cross-border law enforcement cooperation and for building mutual trust. However, despite the efforts of, and cooperation between, national, EU and international actors, significant gaps remain between training needs and current training supply in the EU.

For instance, available EU instruments for police cooperation and the role of EU agencies created to support law enforcement services in fighting crime should be better known and increasingly used by officials to reach their full potential. Training should adequately respond to training needs and more firmly support priorities agreed at EU level for operational cooperation, such as fighting cybercrime and trafficking in drugs and in human beings. Law enforcement officials from Member States taking part in a civilian mission in a third country under the EU umbrella should have a common level of knowledge and skills. Cross-cutting issues for EU level training such as quality of trainers could also be improved.

What will change concretely in training?

While training is currently targeted at senior or mid-ranking officers, the European Law Enforcement Training Scheme (LETS) would be available to law enforcement officials of all ranks, from police officers to border guards and customs officers as well as other state officials such as prosecutors. It should contribute to a common EU law enforcement culture.

The Training Scheme is divided into four strands:

  1. The first aims to guarantee that all law enforcement officials in the EU have a basic level of knowledge about the EU context of cross-border policing, including EU law enforcement agencies (such as Europol and Eurojust), legislation (such as the Prüm Decision on exchange of vehicle registration, fingerprint and DNA data), and instruments (such as the Schengen Information System).

  2. The second strand focuses on EU regional or bilateral cooperation: cross-border cooperation between neighbouring Member States is often intensive and requires knowledge of specific legislation and judicial procedures (such as the European Arrest Warrant and extradition procedures).

  3. The third strand covers training on specific priority criminal or policing topics, such as trafficking in drugs, human beings and firearms, cybercrime, corruption, confiscation of criminal assets and financial investigations.

  4. The fourth strand seeks to ensure that law enforcement officials have a common level of knowledge, skills and values when participating in EU civilian missions in third countries.

How will the Training Scheme be implemented?

Training under strand three and four should be delivered by Cepol, or the Europol Academy, or on its behalf by a selected centre of excellence in the Member States. The implementation of strand one and two is the competence of Member States.

Europol will be responsible for implementing the Training Scheme. A new training directorate at Europol, the Europol Academy, will be supporting and coordinating the delivery of training1. It will do so by developing regular assessments of training needs and multi-annual learning programmes, and by working with Member States and national centres of excellence to improve the quality of training and the skills of trainers acting at EU level.

Does the proposal improve Europol's operational capacity?

Information sharing and analysis is critical to the success of the Member States' cooperation in the concerted fight against serious organised crime.

Europol will become a hub for information exchange on serious crime to the benefit of the law enforcement services across the EU. The proposed Regulation aims to increase the flow of information on crime to Europol, to allow Europol to produce more timely and targeted high-quality analysis to support cross-border cooperation and investigations.

The proposal:

  1. Strengthens the Member States' obligation to provide information to Europol. This is done, by setting clear legal rules and focusing the Member States' supply of information on areas which constitute the EU priorities in fighting crime. The proposed regulation gives also incentives to Member States to share more information by providing targeted financial support to cross-border investigations. On the other hand, it sets out a yearly reporting by Europol to the EU institutions on the quantity and quality of data provided by each individual Member State.

  2. Modernises Europol's data processing structure. The databases or systems are no longer pre-defined, and therefore information is no longer trapped in silos – an architecture which limits the possibilities of linking the data across different systems. The goal is to enable Europol's analysts to swiftly identify all the links between sets of data and patterns in criminal activities. They could therefore build a fuller and more accurate picture of criminal realities and trends. All this is backed by very robust and detailed data protection standards.

  3. Clarifies the ways in which Europol can cooperate and exchange data with third countries and international organisations, as well as with Union bodies (in particular Eurojust and OLAF who will get indirect access to Europol's databases). For the exchange of data with third countries and international organisations, a distinction is made between personal and non-personal data. Europol will be allowed to freely receive and transfer strategic and technical data (i.e. non-personal data) from/to third countries law enforcement agencies and international organisations. The exchange of personal data will be subject to the strict data protection standards. This means that Europol will be able to transfer personal data to third countries or international organisation only under specific conditions, on the basis of international agreements concluded by the EU, a decision of the Commission that the given country or organisation ensures adequate data protection standards, or an already existing cooperation agreement.

Enhancing Europol's analytical capability also benefits European policy makers, as it will have a positive impact on the quality and accuracy of the agency's strategic threat assessments - on which the institutions rely to agree on the EU priorities in the fight against serious organised crime.

How does the proposal ensure greater data protection?

The proposal reinforces the autonomous data protection regime applicable to Europol's activities. For instance:

  1. The individual's right of access to personal data is reinforced by providing an alternative procedure for checking the lawfulness of the processing of personal data if direct access is restricted due to security reasons.

  2. Any individual can turn to Europol for compensation for unlawful data processing or an action incompatible with the provisions of this Regulation. In such a case Europol or a Member State in which damage has occurred is liable2.

  3. The role of Europol's data protection supervisory authority is strengthened. The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) will be competent for the supervision of processing of personal data by Europol. Contrary to the previous data protection supervisor, the EDPS meets all criteria on independence laid down in the case-law of the Court of Justice. In addition, it has full enforcement powers, which ensures the effectiveness of data protection supervision.

  4. The processing of personal data on victims, witnesses, persons different from suspects, and minors is prohibited unless strictly necessary. This also applies to data revealing racial and ethnic origin, political opinions, religion or beliefs, trade-union membership and of data concerning health and sex life (sensitive data).

  5. Access by Member States to personal data held by Europol for operational analyses is made indirect, based on a "hit/no hit" system: an automated query of a Member State produces an anonymous "hit"- i.e. information of a match with the data stored at Europol. The related personal or case data are only provided in response to a separate follow-up request, subject to appropriate safeguards.

How will the parliamentary scrutiny of Europol be enhanced?

The proposed Regulation ensures that Europol's activities are scrutinised by the democratically elected representatives of the EU citizens.

In particular, the European Parliament and national parliaments should:

  1. Receive information through annual activity reports and final accounts each year;

  2. Receive threat assessments, strategic analyses and general situation reports relating to Europol's objective as well as the results of studies and evaluations commissioned by Europol, and working arrangements agreed with authorities of third countries to implement international agreements concluded by the EU with this third country;

  3. Receive reports on quantity and quality of information provided to Europol by each Member State.

In addition, the European Parliament:

  1. Is consulted on the multi-annual work programme;

  2. Fulfils its functions of the budgetary authority;

  3. May invite a candidate for the Director of Europol or a Deputy Director for a hearing before a competent parliamentary committee;

  4. May invite the Director or the Chairman of the Management Board to discuss matters relating to Europol.

In order to allow the European Parliament to exercise the scrutiny, and at the same time guarantee confidentiality of operational information, Europol and the European Parliament need to conclude working arrangement on the access to European Union Classified Information (EUCI) and sensitive non-classified information.

What will change on governance of the agency? 

Governance of Europol is aligned with the Common Approach on the EU decentralised agencies which all EU institutions endorsed. This contributes to a coherent vision on the role and the place of the agencies in the EU. The governance set-up and procedures are streamlined to guarantee better effectiveness. In addition, the composition of the Management Board is redesigned to reflect the dual mandate of Europol - law enforcement cooperation and training.

1 :

Frontex will however remain responsible for training of border guards in accordance with its legal framework.

2 :

EUROPOL on the basis of Art. 340 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Member State on the basis of its national law

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