Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Ninth Report



5. PROTOCOL AMENDING THE EUROPOL CONVENTION

 

(23616)

10307/02

EUROPOL 46

Initiative of the Kingdom of Denmark with a view to adopting a Council Act drawing up, on the basis of Article 43(1) of the Convention on the establishment of a European Police Office (Europol Convention), of a Protocol amending that Convention.

Legal base:

Article 43(1) Europol Convention; consultation; unanimity

   

Document originated:

2 July 2002

Deposited in Parliament:

4 July 2002

Department:

Home Office

Basis of consideration:

EM of 11 July 2002 and Minister's letter to Baroness Harris of 24 September 2002

Previous Committee Report:

None; but see (22843) 13284/01and (22902) 14196/01: HC 152-ix (2001-02), paragraph 10 (5 December 2001); (23154) 5455/02: HC 152-xxxi (2001-02), paragraph 13 (22 May 2002), and (23291) 7212/02: HC 152-xxxv (2001-02), paragraph 17 (3 July 2002)

To be discussed in Council:

December 2002

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:

Not cleared; further information requested

 

Background

    1. Although this is a new initiative from the Danish Presidency, we have considered amendments to the Europol Convention on a number of occasions. These have been concerned with the extension of Europol's mandate[29] and with a simplified procedure for amending the Convention.[30]
    2. The document

    3. The proposed Protocol, which Member States would need to adopt according to their respective constitutional requirements, lists a number of changes which the Danish Presidency considers need to be made in order both to increase the support given to Europol, and to strengthen the support which Europol can give to Member States' law enforcement agencies. The main changes reflect the proposal that Europol should now focus upon serious international crime, rather than, as previously, referring to specific crimes such as terrorism and unlawful drug trafficking.
    4. The document also addresses an earlier initiative by the Commission on the democratic accountability of Europol[31], by providing for the greater involvement of the European Parliament in all aspects of the management of Europol and in the amendment of the Europol Convention.
    5. The Government's view

    6. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth) has provided us with an Explanatory Memorandum. He has also sent us a copy of a letter to Baroness Harris, the Chair of one of our sister Committee's sub-committees, providing some supplementary information on the Government's view of the document as evidence for the inquiry into amendments to the Europol Convention which the sub-committee is undertaking.
    7. While the Government has no serious difficulty with most of the provisions in the draft Protocol, it is concerned that discussion of this document should not delay the adoption of the provisions on Europol support for joint investigation teams[32], and has made its position clear to the Presidency.
    8. Generally, the Government considers that Europol needs a settled mandate and a firm, but flexible, legal base. It must prioritise its activities, in order to avoid the risk of dissipating its efforts. The Minister considers that the Convention should include provisions about prioritisation, and should make it clear that the requirement to prioritise applies to all the forms of crime covered by Europol's mandate. He notes in his letter that the Presidency envisages Europol's mandate extending to all forms of serious international crime whether or not the crime is organised. He comments:
    9. "The Government would prefer to see specific references to organised crime, but it is willing to accede to the proposal on the understanding that adequate arrangements for prioritising Europol's activities...are put in place in the Convention itself."

    10. The Minister also considers that the document should adopt the definitions of "serious crime"and "transnational crime" (and, if other Member States agree, the definitions of "organised criminal group" and "structured group") from Articles 2 and 3 of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.
    11. One of the proposed changes to which the Government is firmly opposed relates to the liaison role of the Europol National Units. The Minister states:
    12. "We would not support the removal of reference, in Article 4(2), to the Europol National Units as the only liaison body between Europol and competent national authorities. Nor would we support the inclusion of a paragraph allowing other authorities to perform the tasks of the National Units, other than evaluating information and intelligence and supplying Europol with information for storage in the information system. National Units fulfil a valuable co-ordination role, which we would not wish to see undermined."

    13. The Minister tells us that one of the proposed amendments addresses the issue of MSOPES[33], which the Information Commissioner raised with us during our consideration of the draft agreement between Europol and Interpol.[34] He considers that the new Article makes clear the role of the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) and the principles which must apply where Europol provides analytical support to Member States' own investigations. There are some other proposed amendments involving data protection, however, especially one concerning the communication of personal data to third countries and third bodies, to which the Government wishes to give further consideration.
    14. Generally, the Minister supports the provisions which address democratic control of Europol as part of the wider question of Europol's accountability. He therefore sees merit in the Director of Europol's appearing before the European Parliament (EP) (as long as it is clear that the Director is not accountable to that body) and to the EP's receiving the Europol Annual Report, and JSB activity reports. He has no problems with the proposal that the Council should consult the EP before adopting a range of measures, or with the new draft Article on right of access to Europol documents (which parallels an Article in the Council Decision setting up Eurojust[35]).
    15. Similarly, the Minister does not have any difficulty with the proposal that the Director may appear before any joint committee of the EP and national parliaments (on which we commented in our report Democracy and accountability in the EU and the role of national parliaments.[36])
    16. Finally, the Minister tells us that the Danish Presidency hopes to conclude discussions on the proposed amendments before the end of the year.
    17. Conclusion

    18. We are concerned by the number of documents currently recommending changes to Europol, and share the Minister's view that, even if useful, this draft Protocol may not be of the first priority. In that context, we ask what has happened to the proposal for a simplified procedure for amending the Europol Convention.
    19. In general, we agree that Europol must be required to prioritise its activities and report on their implementation so that its performance can be properly assessed, and we support those aspects of this document which relate to those requirements. However, we support the Minister in opposing any weakening of the role of Europol National Units, and will keep the document under scrutiny until we know whether the Government has been successful in negotiations on this issue.

 


29  (23154) 5455/02 and (23291) 7212/02: see headnote to this paragraph. Back

30  (22843) 13284/01: see headnote to this paragraph. Back

31  (23291) 7212/02: see headnote to this paragraph. Back

32  (23817) 12340/02: see paragraph 18 of this report Back

33  Member States Operational Projects with Europol Support. Back

34  (22214) -; see HC 152-xxviii (2001-02), paragraph 3 (8 May 2002) and HC 152-xxxiv (2001-02), paragraph 13 (26 June 2002).  Back

35  2002/187/JHA Back

36  HC 152-xxxiii-I (21 June 2002), para. 142. Back

 
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Prepared 11 November 2002