Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Ninth Report





COM(02) 439

Draft Council Decision on the financing of certain activities carried out by Europol in connection with cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

Legal base:

Article 30(2)(a) and (b), Article 34(2)(c) EU; consultation; unanimity


Document originated:

31 July 2002

Deposited in Parliament:

10 September 2002


Home Office

Basis of consideration:

EM of 9 October 2002

Previous Committee Report:


To be discussed in Council:

20 December 2002

Committee's assessment:

Legally and politically important

Committee's decision:

Not cleared; further information requested



    1. The Europol Convention of 1995[46] provides for the establishment of a European Police Office (Europol) situated in the Hague. The objective of Europol is to improve cooperation between the competent authorities of Member States in combating terrorism, drug trafficking and other serious forms of international crime affecting two or more Member States.
    2. Article 35(2) of the Europol Convention provides that the budget of Europol is to be financed from contributions from Member States and from 'other incidental income'. Member States' contribution are fixed by reference to GNP. The budget is drawn up by the Director of Europol who is required to submit his draft budget to the Management Board of Europol, a body consisting of a representative from each Member State[47]. The budget is then submitted to the Council for adoption under Title VI of the EU Treaty.
    3. Article B5-822 of the European Union budget for 2002[48] contains a provision of _5 million set aside by the European Parliament for the purposes of providing Europol 'with the necessary resources to step up and coordinate Member State action to combat terrorism'.
    4. The draft Council Decision

    5. The draft Council Decision is a proposal from the Commission to create a legal base to permit the use of funds allocated to Europol under the European Union budget for 2002[49].
    6. Article 1 of the Decision requires Europol to carry out the activities referred to in the Annex 'to step up and coordinate the fight against terrorism.' The activities referred to are the creation of a 'European Union Bomb Data Network', a communication network for 'Special Intervention Units' and an Operational Control Centre. The Bomb Data Network would be an EU- wide bomb database allowing Member States to exchange and disseminate in secure conditions data on explosive devices. The communication network for Special Intervention Units would enable the rapid and secure exchange of information in relation to terrorist threats or incidents. The Operational Control Centre would provide for information exchange in the event of a major terrorism incident, in particular an incident involving nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.
    7. Article 2 of the Decision would cause expenditure under it to be considered as operational expenditure for the purposes of Article 41(3) EU[50]. Article 3 requires Europol to submit a quarterly progress report to the Commission on the activities referred to in the Annex and an annual 'detailed report' to the Commission on all activities carried out on the basis of the Decision.
    8. The Government's view

    9. In his Explanatory Memorandum of 9 October, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth) points out that, although the draft Decision is said by the Commission to be based on proposals by Europol, they have been neither discussed nor confirmed by the Europol Management Board. The Minister finds this lack of consultation 'disappointing' since it is the Management Board which is responsible for the settling of Europol's priorities and which is best placed to consider what is appropriate.
    10. Referring to the activities described in the Annex, the Minister states that a preliminary examination by the UK's competent authorities suggests that a detailed business case must be prepared for these proposals which must be discussed with Member States before being taken forward. The Minister comments that it is 'not obvious at present' that these proposals add value to existing arrangements or fulfil a real customer need and that it is important to ensure that any additional funding is spent prudently in areas where it will have benefit, rather than duplicate what is already being done. The Minister comments further that the Operational Control Centre proposal would provide for Europol to coordinate a European response to a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incident, but that this needs careful interdepartmental study at Ministerial level.
    11. The Minister does not consider that Community funding can really be considered to be 'other incidental income' within the meaning of Article 35(2) of the Europol Convention. The Minister points out that the Europol budget is based on a fixed level of income and expenditure which must be in balance and comments as follows:
    12. "Any incidental income, or indeed more major contributions as this would be, would not lead to an increase of the level of expenditure, given that this level has been fixed explicitly in the budget for the year 2002. Instead, such income would only lead to a corresponding decrease of the contributions by the Member States and must have an effect on Europol's activities given that this new money would be ring-fenced, applicable only to the proposed projects. The impact on what the Management Board have already decided that Europol should do has not, seemingly been taken into account. We should also note that the Europol supplementary budget, which addressed changed priorities after the incidents of September 11th did not list these projects."

    13. The Minister further explains that any increase in the level of expenditure could only be achieved as a result of an amending or supplementary budget to be adopted by the Council acting unanimously under Article 35(5) of the Europol Convention, but that no proposals have been put forward for such an amending or supplementary budget.
    14. The Minister indicates that whilst the Government would be open to considering funding Europol from the Community budget if the Convention were to be replaced by a Council Decision, it has reservations about moving to a 'mixed model' whereby Europol would receive some inter-governmental funding and some funding from the Community budget, since this could distort priorities and resource allocation. If Europol were to need additional funds to combat terrorism, the Government concludes that it would expect to investigate funding from normal intergovernmental mechanisms before concluding that expenditure from the Community budget could be justified.
    15. Conclusion

    16. We thank the Minister for his detailed and helpful Explanatory Memorandum. We find it not merely disappointing, but astonishing, that the Commission should have made this proposal without first consulting the Management Board of Europol.
    17. We share the concerns expressed by the Minister and we consider the proposal to be ill-prepared and inappropriate. It will have the effect of distorting Europol's priorities and appears to us to be designed, not to improve the functioning of Europol, but to make that body subordinate to the Commission. We ask the Minister if he shares that concern and if he sees any justification for imposing duties on Europol to report to the Commission on its operations.
    18. We shall hold the document under scrutiny pending the Minister's reply.


46  OJ No C 316, 27.11.1995 p.2. Back

47  Article 28(4) of the Europol Convention provides that the Commission shall be invited to meetings of the Management Board, but that it may not vote. The Management Board may meet without the Commission representative. Back

48  OJ No L29, 31.01.2002, p.1046. Back

49  This funding remains in Chapter BO-40 (provisions) until a basic instrument to cover the financing of Europol's activities from the European Union budget is agreed.  Back

50  Article 41(3)EU provides that operational expenditure shall be charged to the budget of the European Communities, except where the Council acting unanimously decides otherwise. Back

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