Select Committee on European Scrutiny Seventh Report


POSSIBLE AMENDMENTS TO THE EUROPOL CONVENTION AND POSSIBLE EXTENSIONS OF EUROPOL'S COMPETENCE


(a)
(21996)
5134/01
EUROPOL 1

(b)
(22056)
5555/01
EUROPOL 5


Presidency note on possible amendments to the Europol
Convention and possible extensions of Europol's
competence.



Presidency note on possible amendments to the Europol
Convention and possible extensions of Europol's competence


Legal base:
Deposited in Parliament: a) 17 January 2001
b) 26 January 2001
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 12 February 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: 15-16 March 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested

The documents

  9.1  Document (a) is a note from the Swedish Presidency to the Article 36 Committee, inviting discussion on whether the Europol Convention should be amended, and putting forward proposals for its amendment. It also asks for the question of extending Europol's competence to be discussed, and suggests some options. Document (b), another Presidency note, reports the outcomes of the Article 36 meeting.

Document (a)

  9.2  The note proposes three amendments to the Europol Convention. The first is related to a Council Recommendation adopted last year which encouraged Member States to make use of Europol support in joint teams.[30] The proposal is that a new Article should be added to the Convention providing for Europol officers to participate in a support capacity in joint investigative teams. The Article could also include provisions about the conditions for their participation, and the kind of activities they may undertake.

  9.3  The second proposed amendment is also related to a Council Recommendation adopted last year, which encouraged Member States to give consideration to requests from Europol to conduct investigations or to coordinate investigations in specific areas.[31] Again, the suggestion is that a new Article be developed, to formalise the procedure.

  9.4  The third proposed amendment is related to the new Article 31(2)(b) inserted by the draft Treaty of Nice into the Treaty on European Union. This Article specifically mentions that Eurojust should make use of Europol's analyses. The Presidency note raises the possibility of including in the Europol Convention some formal recognition of the necessity for cooperation between Europol and Eurojust.

  9.5  Document (a) also addresses the possible extension of Europol's competence. It puts forward four options for discussion:

    —   Europol keeps its current competence (i.e. the criteria for its being able to act), but no longer limited to specific forms of crime;

    —  Europol keeps its current competence, but extended to all the forms of crime included in the Annex to the Convention;

    —  Europol keeps its current competence, extended only to environmental crime, fraud and cyber crime; and

    —  Europol keeps its current competence.

Document (b)

  9.6  Document (b) reports the outcomes of the Article 36 Committee at which document (a) was discussed. The Committee agreed that the Convention should be amended in relation to the two Council Recommendations, but decided that it was too early to address the issue of cooperation between Europol and Eurojust. The document mandates the Europol Working Group to undertake detailed work on the amendments, and supplies draft, initial text.

  9.7  With regard to the question of extending Europol's competence, the Article 36 Committee asks the Europol Working Group to consider the second option (extending the current competence to all the forms of crime included in the Annex to the Convention), and also to consider broadening the mandate even further to cover international organised crime in general. That would involve amending the Convention; adoption of the second option would merely require a Council Decision. Both would require further work on defining terms (such as "organised crime") and data protection issues would need to be addressed.

  9.8  Document (b) notes that several Committee members felt that extension of Europol's competence should not automatically lead to increases in its budget and staffing levels. The Management Board of Europol should decide on the priorities of the organisation, with the Council also having a say at the political level.

The Government's view

  9.9  The Minister of State at the Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) comments on the proposals as follows:

"On joint investigation teams, the Government's view is that there is a need to consider amending the Europol Convention to provide for Europol to give support to members of joint teams, and elaborating the arrangements, conditions and rules which should apply. These should not be over-prescriptive, but there must be clarity and certainty if co-operation is to be enhanced and not inhibited. There is considerable further work to be done if an adequate EU framework for operating joint teams is to work efficiently.

    "The Government does not think there is a compelling need to incorporate in the Europol Convention the Council Recommendation on Europol asking Member States to initiate investigations. However, there would be advantage in doing so, if the Convention is to be amended anyway for other purposes.

    "As indicated in the Home Office Explanatory Memorandum of 19 January 2001 on [(21897) and (21972)][32], any decision concerning Europol's competence should complement decisions reached in the parallel discussions on Eurojust's competence.

    "On extending Europol's mandate, the Government is supportive of an extension of the mandate to incorporate the crimes listed in the Annex to the Europol Convention, and is also supportive of further consideration being given to extending Europol's mandate to other forms of organised crime not listed in the Annex. The Government believes that incremental extensions of the mandate are not necessarily helpful for Europol's planning purposes, and attaches importance to ensuring that Europol can provide adequate support, particularly in terms of its future relationship with Eurojust.

    "[Document (b)] recognises that a decision to extend Europol's mandate should have no automatic consequences on the Europol budget and its staffing level. The Government attaches importance to ensuring that Europol appropriately prioritises its activities through taut internal financial management controls and business planning mechanisms."

  9.10  The Minister tells us that, although discussions are at an early stage, the Swedish Presidency is thought to be keen to make progress on these documents. The extension of Europol's competence may be discussed at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 15 and 16 March.

Conclusion

  9.11  The documents, and the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum, raise a number of questions.

  9.12  We agree with the Minister that there is "considerable further work to be done if an adequate EU framework for operating joint teams is to work efficiently", and hope the proposed amendment to the Europol Convention will offer the opportunity to develop appropriate rules and conditions. We remind the Minister of the concern we have expressed on a previous occasion about the role and liability of Europol officers taking part in joint investigative teams,[33] and ask whether she will press for these matters to be addressed in any new Article.

  9.13  We note the Minister's view that any decision concerning Europol's competence should complement decisions reached in the parallel discussions on Eurojust's competence. Is the implication that the proposals in document (b) must remain provisional while discussions continue in relation to Eurojust, or will Eurojust's competence now be extended in line with these proposals?

  9.14  While we understand the view that incremental extensions of Europol's mandate may not be helpful, it seems to indicate a shift in government policy. In her Explanatory Memorandum last May on the proposal to make Europol competent in respect of money laundering in general, the Minister stated that "Europol should demonstrate that it can meet Member States' expectations in relation to the serious (predicate) offences within its existing mandate, before the mandate is generally widened."[34] Does the Minister consider that Europol has already met Member States' expectations, or has she changed her view about widening the mandate?

  9.15  We will keep the document under scrutiny until we have the Minister's response.



30  (21568) 9639/00; see HC 23-xxviii (1999-2000), paragraph 27 (1 November 2000). Back

31  (21207) 7369/00; see HC 23-xviii (1999-2000), paragraph 9 (17 May 2000) and HC 23-xx (1999-2000), paragraph 14 (7 June 2000).  Back

32   See HC 28-vi (2000-2001), paragraph 2 (14 February 2001).  Back

33  (20726) 13451/99; see HC 23-xiii (1999-2000), paragraph 23 (5 April 2000). Back

34  (21208) 7371/00; see HC 23-xx (1999-2000), paragraph 18 (7 June 2000). Back


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 15 March 2001