Select Committee on European Scrutiny Fourth Report


DRAFT AGREEMENT BETWEEN EUROPOL AND NORWAY AND EUROPOL AND INTERPOL AND THE JOINT SUPERVISORY BODY'S OPINION ON THEM


(a)
(22217)


(b)
(22809)


(c)
(22213)




(d)
(22214)


(e)
(22811)
— 

Draft agreement between the Kingdom of Norway and the European
Police Office.


Opinion of the Joint Supervisory Body in respect of the draft
agreement to be signed between Europol and Norway.


Proposal for the content of an Exchange of Letters between the General
Secretary of Interpol and the Director of Europol as mentioned in
Articles 13 and 14 of the [Draft] Agreement between Interpol and
Europol.


Draft agreement between Interpol and Europol.



Opinion of the Joint Supervisory Body in respect of the draft
agreement to be signed between Europol and Interpol.


Legal base: Articles 42,10 and 18 of the Europol Convention and the Council Decision of 27 March 2000 authorising the Director of Europol to enter into negotiations on agreements with certain third states and non-EU related bodies; unanimity
 
Deposited in Parliament: (b) and (e) 1 November 2001
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: Ministers' letters of 6 June, 6 September and 29 October and EM of 1 November 2001
Previous Committee Report: (a) (c) and (d): HC 28-x (2000-01), paragraph 5 (28 March 2001)
(b) and (e): None
To be discussed in Council: Already adopted
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: (a) (b) and (c) Cleared
(d) and (e) Not cleared; further information requested

Background

6.1  The previous Committee considered documents (a) (c) and (d) in March. It left them all uncleared, since there was no mention in the Government's Explanatory Memoranda of the Opinions of the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB), which monitors Europol's activities in relation to data protection issues. The Committee had previously put on record the value it placed on the involvement of the JSB in these procedures; it was not, therefore, prepared to clear the draft Agreements without knowing what its views were.

6.2  In her letter of 6 June to the then Leader of the House,[27] the then Minister announced that, owing to the pressure the UK had been exerting for faster progress on Europol agreements, the Government was prepared to lift the parliamentary scrutiny reserve to allow these proposals to be agreed as "A" points at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 28-29 May. In the event, another Member State entered a parliamentary scrutiny reserve, which resulted in a short postponement.

6.3  In her letter of 29 October, written to update us on several items of business from the May Justice and Home Affairs Council, the Parliamentary Under- Secretary at the Home Office (Angela Eagle) tells us that the agreements were adopted at the Transport and Telecommunications Council on 27-28 June 2001.

Documents (b) and (e)

6.4  Although the Minister told us in her letter of 6 September [28] that the JSB's Opinions had been deposited, she later acknowledged that to be an error. They were, in fact, deposited on 5 November, together with an Explanatory Memorandum. (The Explanatory Memorandum also covers the JSB's Opinion on the agreement with Iceland, on which we report separately.)

6.5  The JSB Opinion in respect of the draft agreement between Europol and Norway (document (b)) raises some points of detail. However, it concludes that, provided that these are addressed, there are no obstacles to prevent the Council from allowing the Director of Europol to conclude the agreement.

6.6  In respect of Interpol, the Opinion states "from a data protection perspective clear obstacles exist for the Council to allow the Director of Europol to conclude the agreement". The JSB then lists eleven points which would need to be met before it could give a positive opinion in respect of the draft agreement. These include the need for redrafting to make certain points clear: that co-operation between the two bodies can only take place within the limits of Europol's competencies; that Interpol officers based at Europol were not to have direct access to data held by Europol, or pose a threat to data security; that, whereas Interpol is not allowed direct access to the Europol computer systems, Europol is allowed such access to Interpol's system, under certain circumstances.

The Government's view

6.7  In relation to the Opinion on the draft agreement with Interpol, the Minister tells us:

"The Europol Management Board examined the reports made by the JSB, and accepted the opinion of the JSB in the areas where it could be followed, addressing these concerns with amendments where necessary, but considered that certain of the concerns were already adequately covered by the applicable rules. The Management Board made clear that it was already self evident that Europol could not do anything that it was not allowed to do under its legal framework. This was the case with regard to a number of the points raised by the JSB."

6.8  On the Opinions generally, she says:

"The Government considers the provision of agreements allowing exchanges of information between Europol and third countries important in the fight against organised crime both within the EU and in countries outside the EU whose organised crime activity impacts upon the EU. The Government is content with the JSB's reports for Iceland, Norway and Interpol and with the Europol Management Board's response to those reports."

Conclusion

6.9  We hope that the eventual deposit of the Joint Supervisory Body's Opinions marks the end of this sorry story of scrutiny override and subsequent delay in providing information.

6.10  The Joint Supervisory Body's Opinion on the draft agreement between Europol and Interpol confirms us in our wish to see such Opinions before clearing the agreements themselves from scrutiny. It is disturbing that so many more points were raised over this particularly sensitive draft agreement than over the other agreements that we have seen. We find the comments in the Explanatory Memorandum somewhat dismissive, and lacking in detail.

6.11  We reiterate that we require sight of the relevant Joint Supervisory Body's Opinions before we can consider clearing any future draft agreements. We ask the Minister to ensure that, in the event of an unfavourable Opinion, her Explanatory Memorandum details the subsequent amendments made to the draft agreement.

6.12  We clear documents (a) (b) and (c). In relation to documents (d) and (e), we ask the Minister for a detailed account of how each of the Joint Supervisory Body's points was addressed by the Management Board. We shall not clear these two documents until we have her response.


27  Letter of 6 June 2001: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 28-29 May 2001: Decision to override parliamentary scrutiny reserve. Back

28  Letter of 6 September 2001: Justice and Home Affairs Council: 28-29 May 2001Back


 
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Prepared 14 November 2001