Select Committee on European Union Fifth Report


62.  We welcome the abandonment of the proposal to define Europol's remit solely by reference to "serious international crime" and reversion to a definition close to that currently in the Convention. If further clarification is required, there would be advantage in including a reference to the UN Convention to help interpret "organised crime"; and it would be desirable to clarify the meaning of "suspicion" in the new text (paragraph 16).

63.  The definition of the remit is less important in its own right than as a means of ensuring that Europol's tasks are clearly defined so that:

·   there is a shared understanding throughout law enforcement agencies across the Member States of what Europol is responsible for; and

·   Europol does not engage in matters that do not require its involvement.

It is also essential, as the Minister acknowledged, that there should be effective prioritisation of Europol's tasks to avoid it becoming over-burdened. The Europol Management Board has a key role in identifying Europol's priorities and measuring performance against them. The draft Decision calls on the Council, on a proposal from the Management Board, to prioritise action in relation to specific forms of crime (Article 2(1)). It will be important that good use is made of this provision. (paragraph 17).

64.   We support the Government's view that the Europol national units should remain the sole liaison bodies between Europol and national authorities and that provision should not be made, as the draft Decision proposes, for Europol to communicate directly with "other competent authorities" (paragraph 22).

65.  The safeguards sought by the Government would all be desirable, but in our view it would be preferable to retain the existing system of communication with Europol exclusively through the national units (paragraph 24).

66.  We cannot support the case for extending access to the Europol Information System more widely. The current exclusive right of interrogation by central national units provides the best guarantee of effective data protection (paragraph 26).

67.  The Committee urges all the parties concerned to ensure that Europol and OLAF co-operate in protecting the EU from the effects of counterfeiting the euro and that the best possible use is made of the resources of both organisations (paragraph 30).

68.  Europol has a crucial role to perform in combating serious organised crime, but it is at present essentially a role supporting national law enforcement authorities. If, as some have advocated, a fully operational role were proposed for Europol, this would be a very significant change, for which there should be a different legal basis, which could then be the subject of a major debate across the EU. It is important that Europol should not develop a major operational role simply as a result of a succession of relatively small changes to its remit (paragraph 31).

69.  We recommend that the Government press for the idea of a joint committee of Members of national parliaments and the European Parliament to be re-instated (paragraph 40).

70.  There are telling practical reasons for resisting the proposal for Community funding of some of Europol's activities, which would also be inconsistent with its status as a Third Pillar body. The Government should resist future attempts to change the basis of Europol's funding (paragraph 44).

71.  The Committee hopes that the Joint Supervisory Body will continue to be closely involved with the preparation of agreements between Europol and third countries involving the transmission of personal data and urges it to adopt a robust approach to the protection of personal data in them (paragraph 53).

72.  The Committee urges the Government to ensure that any amendment to Article 18 of the Convention provides sufficient guarantees that any agreement on the transmission of personal data from Europol to a third country will be preceded by an individual assessment of data protection law and practice in the country concerned (paragraph 54).

73.   The Committee urges the Government to ensure that any agreements with third countries fully reflect the final authorisation power of the Member State concerned, which should also extend to the choice of the authorities in the countries to which personal data is transmitted (paragraph 55).

74.  The Committee recommends that there should be a much clearer specification of what other data it is intended to process and for what type of background information, and more explicit assurance that the processing of any personal data would be subject to adequate data protection safeguards (paragraph 58).

75.  Unless compelling evidence is produced that the current time-limit on the storage of personal data gives rise to real practical difficulties, we recommend that it should not be increased (paragraph 59).

76.  The Committee regards it as important that a careful case-by-case assessment should be made of any requests for access to documents and that citizens should be clearly informed about the outcome of their requests (paragraph 61).


77.  The proposal by the Danish Presidency to amend the Europol Convention raises important questions of policy and principle, to which the attention of the House should be drawn, and the Committee therefore recommends this report for debate.

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