Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Fifth and Twenty-Sixth Report




Initiative of the Kingdom of Belgium and the Kingdom of Spain with a view to
adopting a Council Act drawing up a Protocol amending the Convention on the
establishment of a European Police Office (Europol Convention), the Protocol
on the interpretation (by way of preliminary rulings) by the Court of Justice of
the Convention on the establishment of a European Police Office and the
Protocol on the privileges and immunities of Europol, the members of its
organs, the deputy directors and the employees of Europol.

Europol's participation in joint investigative teams and Europol's right to ask
Member States to initiate investigations in specific cases.

Legal base:(a) Article 43 (1) Europol Convention, Article 7 Protocol on interpretation, by way of preliminary rulings, by the European Court of Justice, and Article 18 Protocol on the privileges and immunities of Europol, the members of its organs, the deputy directors and employees of Europol; consultation; unanimity
(b) —
Department:Home Office
Basis of consideration: (a) Minister's letter of 23 April 2002
(b) EM of 23 April 2002
Previous Committee Report: (a) HC 152-xxii (2001-02), paragraph 9 (20 March 2002)
To be discussed in Council: April 25/26
Committee's assessment:Legally and politically important
Committee's decision:(a) Cleared in respect of joint investigative teams
(b) Cleared


  6.1  When we considered document (a) in March, we commented that the combination within one document of a proposal to amend the Europol Convention in relation to a specific area (participation in joint investigation teams) with a proposal for a simplified procedure for amending the Convention as a whole seemed inherently unsatisfactory. We left the document uncleared and asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth) some questions on it.

  6.2  The Minister has now written to us explaining that taking both measures forward together proved to be too ambitious, and the Presidency has decided to focus on each separately, beginning with joint investigative teams. In his letter, he also addresses the question we raised about these teams, and tells us that there has been some progress in negotiations on this measure. He encloses an Explanatory Memorandum on the new text which has been deposited (document (b)).

The Minister's letter


  6.3  We asked the Minister why he considered that the inter-relationship of the proposed new Article in the Europol Convention on civil liabilities and the existing Articles in the same area needed clarification. He tells us that he has looked again at the draft provisions and resolved his former concerns.

Document (b)

  6.4  Document (b) is a Presidency Note containing the latest version of the text dealing with Europol's participation in joint teams and its right to ask Member States to initiate investigations. There are few substantive changes from the corresponding provisions in document (a), apart from a new Article dealing with Europol's right to ask Member States to initiate investigations. The Minister describes this new provision as follows:

    "A new Article 3b allows for Europol to request the initiation of criminal investigations by Member States, and sets out how Member States should respond to such requests, including keeping Europol informed. Member States are not obliged to comply with such requests, but should they decide not to comply they should inform Europol of their decision and of the reasons for it. National security, threats to the success of an ongoing investigation or the safety of individuals are cited as grounds for not providing reasons for refusal."

The Government's view

  6.5  The Minister comments:

    "The Government attaches importance to early amendment of the Europol Convention to enable Europol officials to participate in joint investigation teams in a support capacity so that such teams can operate as envisaged in Article 30(2)(a) of the Treaty on European Union, the Conclusions of the Tampere European Council in October 1999 and the special meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council following events on 11 September 2001 in the United States of America. The Government welcomes and supports the proposed amendments dealing with liabilities and privileges."

  6.6  The Minister then tells us:

    "The introduction to [document (b)] currently refers to the text being submitted to Council for political agreement. There is no basis for the Council to do this, first because the European Parliament's opinion on the original proposal is outstanding and second because there has never actually been a legislative proposal covering just Europol's participation in joint teams and Europol's right to ask for an investigation to be initiated. We have made this point both bilaterally to the Presidency and in COREPER, and we have also clearly stated that the proposal remains subject to scrutiny in the UK Parliament, and we understand that the Presidency now intends to ask the Council to endorse a general approach on [document (b)]."


  6.7  We are relieved that the two disparate parts of document (a) have been separated. The status of document (b), however, seems decidedly odd. We understand that the Presidency is hoping for a "general approach" to the text at this week's Justice and Home Affairs Council. Following such an outcome, the precise legal instrument will be drawn up, and, presumably, sent to the European Parliament. We hope this method of proceeding will not set a precedent.

  6.8  We are pleased that the Minister has apparently persuaded the Presidency that it should not seek political agreement to the document at the forthcoming Council. When it is re-presented as a legislative proposal we shall, of course, expect it to be deposited for scrutiny. Meanwhile, we are content to clear document (b) and those parts of document (a) which are concerned with Europol's participation in joint investigative teams and its right to ask Member States to initiate investigations.

previous page contents next page

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

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 3 May 2002