Member of the European Commission responsible for Home Affairs
European Police Cooperation: tools, training and trust
14th European Police Conference
Berlin, 16 February 2011
Let me start by thanking the organisers of this Congress for inviting me here today.
As a European Commissioner, and previously Minister for European Affairs in Sweden and Member of the European Parliament, I have seen cooperation at the EU level growing - in many fields, and at impressive speed. But until recently, the area of Justice and Home affairs – and policing in particular – was possibly a bit overlooked.
This is now changing; and fast. International and European policing increasingly attracts the attention of Parliaments and policy makers at all levels – citizens, organisations, the media as well as the private sector.
I am therefore very happy to have this opportunity to give you my own perspective on law enforcement at a European level.
And I welcome the opportunity that the Congress gives, in particular, key representatives of law enforcement authorities from different Member States to interact and build mutual trust - something I will return to later.
Threats and the ISS framework
It is not surprising that law enforcement is increasingly in focus. All the information I receive, from national police forces and from EU agencies such as EUROPOL and FRONTEX, shows that the EU is facing serious security threats. Many of those threats are cross-border, and growing in scale and in sophistication. Law enforcement cooperation at EU level is therefore essential: national law enforcement authorities cannot reasonably be expected tackle these threats on their own.
That is one of the reasons why the Commission, at my suggestion, adopted a Communication earlier this year: the EU Internal Security Strategy in Action. That strategy recognises that to meet the security challenges we face today – such as serious crime, protection of our external borders, terrorism, etcetera, law enforcement authorities need the right tools, the right training and the necessary trust to work together.
We need tools to exchange information and work jointly on operations and investigations. We need training to ensure that the tools are used correctly and efficiently. We need trust – in the tools and in the value of working – to make it all come together.
Achievements so far – and an example
Before outlining how I, as Commissioner for Home Affairs, think the EU can make progress on those "three fundamental Ts" over the coming years, let us just recall how far we have come already at EU level. To supplement the work of national police, customs and border authorities, we have already adopted a number of EU instruments such as the European Arrest Warrant; we have provided funding for joint investigation teams to combat cross-border criminality; we have created common strategies for counter-terrorism and drug trafficking; we jointly use customs controls to assess the security risk of goods entering the EU. The list is of course much longer than that.
And there are plenty of examples that cooperation at the European level does help to prevent crime and disrupt criminal networks. One example that struck me is Operation Shovel, involving five different countries in 2010:
The criminal network had its logistic base in Spain, led by Irish and UK criminals involved in a range of activities such as drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering, forgery of public documents and not the least murders!
The operation was led by Spanish authorities in close collaboration with Britain, Ireland and Belgium. It was supported by Europol which deployed three mobile officers. Over 700 police officers were involved in numerous Member States during the day of the operation. Surveillance and monitoring were conducted, including border surveillance between the UK and Ireland.
As a result, 38 arrests were made; 60 luxury properties on the Spanish "Costa del Sol” were seized, as were 25 cars. 180 bank accounts were frozen. Without close, coordinated cooperation across EU internal borders, this criminal network could not have been dismantled.
So, let me come back to the three fundamental Ts – Tools, Training, and Trust.
First, the EU gives Member States' law enforcement authorities a number of tools for information exchange, for operations and for investigations.
I have to start by Europol in this context. Europol's main tools, the Europol Information System and the analysis work files are a key element of that toolbox. Apart from that, Europol produces analyses and offers operational assistance in Member States' investigations as happened in Operation Shovel – as well as in Joint Investigation Teams. Finally, Europol plays a significant role in strategic analysis. Every two years, it produces the Organized Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA) on the basis of which the Council of Home Affairs Ministers agrees on the EU priorities in the fight against the most serious phenomena of crime affecting Europe.
However, I am convinced that Europol has the potential to do more, working together with other EU agencies and other actors such as Interpol. Europol depends on national authorities' willingness to provide fresh data to its databases, and to participate in the initiatives the agency coordinates. I am told that in 2009, only 10 MSs provided any information to europol's data bases" should redad instead "I am told that in 2009, 10 ten Member States provided 80% of all the information sent to Europol's data bases
We can clearly do better than that. I hope to see national law enforcement authorities share more data, and engage even more actively with Europol, in the coming years.
Exchange of information – SI and Prum
Let me now say a few words about the exchange of information directly between law enforcement authorities in different Member States. Speedy access to relevant information whilst, of course, protecting personal data in line with a set clear common rules is key for effective law enforcement work.
I would emphasise two tools, provided by the EU, in particular:
First, we have the so-called 'Swedish Initiative', a 2006 instrument which established the principle that the conditions for cross-border exchange of criminal information and intelligence cannot be stricter than those applying to data exchange within a Member State. It requires Member States to reply to requests for information from other Member States and sets a time limit for the response – 8 hours in the case of urgent requests.
Second, we have the Prüm Decision which allows for automated exchange of DNA, fingerprints, and vehicle registration data, as well as other forms of police cooperation, between the 27 Member States.
Both of these tools are valuable, important parts of the toolbox that the EU has set up to facilitate information exchange between Member States. But, as for Europol, I am convinced that more can be done to make these tools more operationally relevant and better used:
So far, only ten Member States have informed the Commission about how they have transposed the Swedish Initiative into national law – I fear that other Member States have not acted at all.
Prüm is due to be fully implemented by August 2011. Not all Member States are ready, due to the challenges in terms of IT development. In order to assist Member States, the Commission is already financing a number of projects.
European Information Exchange Model
But funding of IT development is not enough. I am convinced that to make the exchange of information and criminal intelligence in the EU truly effective, we need a bottom-up approach, where the views and needs of the users – namely the law enforcement officers – are fully taken into account. The Commission, together with Member States, EU Agencies and Interpol, are therefore working on a mapping exercise to get a better overview of how information exchange in Europe actually works in practice.
We plan to report to Member States [on the result of that mapping exercise] already in April of this year. We will build on those results to improve the EU toolbox.
This brings me to the second of the "fundamental Ts" in European police cooperation – Training.
My discussions with law enforcement experts over the last year has made it clear that EU tools - such as the Prum framework for information exchange and Joint Investigation Teams for cross-border operations – can work properly only if those using it have a basic common understanding of European law enforcement principles and practices.
I therefore aim to develop a European Training Scheme. Such a scheme should be flexible and broad enough to meet the needs of different law enforcement agencies.
If designed in the right way, it could help increase the general knowledge of EU legal instruments; it could strengthen operational skills on how to use existing information exchange channels and IT solutions; and it could help authorities share case-specific know-how (for instance up-to-date information about modus operandi used by organised crime groups).
I know that EU training courses have, in the past, not always met the expectations of law enforcement officials. When setting up the European Training Scheme, we will therefore focus on quality and practical relevance to ensure that courses meet real training needs.
To take all this forward, the Commission is planning to organise a high level conference on the 18th of May 2011 to identify priorities for and reflect on the future of law enforcement training in the EU. I look forward to your ideas and input on that occasion!
CONCLUSION - TRUST
Now, let me conclude on the final 'fundamental T' for European law enforcement cooperation - Trust.
It has been said often, but it deserves to be said again. If we want to meet the growing security challenges we face in the EU today, we need not just human resources, funding, equipment, tools and training. We need trust at three levels:
First, law enforcement authorities must trust the tools at their disposal, including the EU tools I just spoke about, and spend the time and effort it inevitably takes to learn how to use them.
Second, law enforcement authorities must trust one another to share experience, information and know-how.
Finally, citizens must trust that the tools and instruments we have are designed and applied in a way which respects privacy and fundamental rights.
That trust cannot be imposed by EU law, or "from Brussels" as some might put it. Trust is built, gradually, and has to come from law enforcement authorities themselves. From you.
But as Commissioner for Home Affairs, I hope that by improving the functioning of EU information sharing tools and by stepping up EU training of law enforcement officials trust will also grow.
With trust as a basis, and working together, I do think that the EU can meet the security challenges of today.
Thank you for your attention.