The headquarters of Europol in The Hague, the Netherlands
|Formed||1 October 1998|
|Headquarters||The Hague, Netherlands|
|Employees||940 (December 2015)|
|Annual budget||€ 100.2 million (2016)|
The European Police Office (commonly abbreviated Europol) is the law enforcement agency of the European Union (EU) that handles criminal intelligence and combating serious international organised crime by means of cooperation between the relevant authorities of the member states, including those tasked with customs, immigration services, border and financial police etc. Headquartered in The Hague, the agency has 912 staff, of which there are regular police officers and 185 liaison officers as well as personnel seconded from national law enforcement organisations.
The agency has no executive powers, and its officials are not entitled to conduct investigations in the member states or to arrest suspects. Europol, in providing support through information exchange, intelligence analysis, expertise, and training, can contribute to the executive measures carried out by the relevant national authorities.
Europol has its origins in TREVI, a forum for internal security cooperation amongst EEC/EC interior and justice ministers created in 1975 and active until the Maastricht Treaty came into effect in 1993.
Germany, with its federal organisation of police forces, had long been in favour of a supranational police organisation at EC level. It tabled a surprise proposal to establish a European Police Office to the European Council meeting in Luxembourg in June 1991. By that December, the Intergovernmental Conference was coming to an end and the member states had pledged themselves to establishing Europol through Article K.1(9) of the Maastricht Treaty. Europol was given the modest role of establishing ‘a Union-wide system for exchanging information’ amongst EU police forces.
Delays in ratifying the Maastricht Treaty led to TREVI ministers agreeing a "Ministerial Agreement on the Europol Drugs Unit" in June 1993. This intergovernmental agreement, outside of EU law, led to the establishment of a small team headed by Jürgen Storbeck, a senior German police officer who initially operated from some temporary cabins in a Strasbourg suburb (shared with personnel of the Schengen Information System) while more permanent arrangements were made.
Once the Maastricht Treaty had come into effect, the slow process of negotiating and ratifying a Europol Convention began. In the meantime, the Europol Drugs Unit (EDU) had its powers extended twice, in March 1995 and again in December 1996 to include a range of trafficking offences in its remit. During this period, information amongst officers could only be exchanged bilaterally, with a central database to be established once the Europol Convention was ratified. The Europol Convention finally came into effect in October 1998 after ratification by all 15 EU national parliaments though some outstanding legal issues (primarily data protection supervision and judicial supervision) ensured it could not formally take up duties until July 1999.
The Europol Convention was superseded by the Council Decision of 6 April 2009 establishing the European Police Office (Europol), converting Europol into a formal EU agency as well as increasing some of its powers. The European Parliament was given more control over Europol by the Council Decision as well.
The establishment of Europol was agreed to in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, officially known as the Treaty on European Union (TEU) that came into effect in November 1993. The agency started limited operations on 3 January 1994, as the Europol Drugs Unit (EDU). The Europol Convention was signed on 26 July 1995, and came into force in October 1998 after being ratified by all the member states. Europol commenced its full activities on 1 July 1999. Europol came under the EU's competence with the Lisbon Treaty, and the Convention was replaced by a Council Decision in 2009. It was reformed as a full EU agency on 1 January 2010. This gave Europol increased powers to collect criminal information and European Parliament more control over Europol activities and budget.
In January 1, 2016 Europol's European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) became operational.
Three different levels of co-operation are possible:
- Training and technical co-operation
- Strategic co-operation aimed at exchanging general trends in organised crime and how to fight it and the exchange of threat assessments
- Exchange of personal data and requires the fulfilment of Europol's standards in the field of data protection and security
The Directorate of Europol is appointed by the Council of the European Union (Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs). As of August 2015 it consists of Director Rob Wainwright and Deputy Directors Wil van Gemert, Oldrich Martinu and Luis de Eusebio Ramos.
Europol is politically accountable to the Justice and Home Affairs Council via the Europol Management Board. The Council controls the appointment of Europol's Director and Deputy Directors. It also controls Europol's budget, financed from member state contributions, rather than the EU budget and any legislative instruments it deems necessary for Europol. The Europol Management Board is staffed with Interior Ministry officials with one representative from every participating member state. It meets at least twice per year and exercises political control over more routine staffing and budgetary matters, amongst other things. The Joint Supervisory Body oversees data protection in Europol and has two representatives from each participating state's data protection supervisory body. On 25 January 2016 Europol launched European Counter Terrorism Center, abbreviated as ECTC to counter growing threat of ISIS and other terror groups.
Financial supervision over Europol is aided by a committee of auditors drawn from the membership of the European Court of Auditors and known as the Joint Audit Committee. The Joint Audit Committee is not technically part of the European Court of Auditors as the Europol budget is not part of the overall EU budget. This unusual arrangement preserves the intergovernmental character of Europol.
The European Court of Justice has minimal jurisdiction over Europol with its remit extending only to limited interpretation of the Europol Convention.
The European Ombudsman, while not given a formal role in the Europol Convention, seems to have gained de facto recognition as an arbitrator in Europol matters relating to requests for access to documents and Europol staff disputes.
- Committed by organised groups to generate large criminal profits such as online fraud
- Causing serious harm to the victim such as online child sexual exploitation
- Affecting critical infrastructure and information systems in the E.U.
The European Cybercrime Centre (EC3 or EC³) is an organisation of the European Union attached to Europol in The Hague. The purpose of the centre is to coordinate cross-border law enforcement activities against cybercrime and act as a centre of technological expertise. It will start with five experts, expanding to a staff of 40 in 2013, but is not expected to be fully functional till 2015. It was officially opened on 11 January 2013. It is tasked with assisting member states in their efforts to dismantle and disrupt cyber crime networks and will also develop tools and provide training.
Cooperation with third countries and other bodies
The Director of Europol is able to enter into agreements for Europol with both countries and internal organizations. Europol cooperates on an operational basis with: Albania, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Republic of Macedonia, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, the United States and Interpol.
Criticisms of Europol
Despite being funded by the EU, Europol has been found to have gaps between the funds allocated and its operational results achieved.
Its weakness lies in its very formalized structure, which causes loss of flexibility and its poor management of their multiple centres that control its operating activities.
Due to its information collection and analysis core, it is unable to actually search for information, i.e. no system to find persons or things, no resources for wiretapping etc. and is consequently deprived of the most important function in terms of operational efficiency.
There lacks sufficient representation of customs and border protection at Europol as well as a clear division of tasks between Europol and other EU institutions such as CEPOL or Frontex.
Though Europol focuses a large amount on anti-terrorism, its reputation is rather poor in this area. It lacks potential in its anti-terrorism department to take effective action against terrorism, especially because it is not included in the Club de Berne (the largest anti-terrorism forum in the EU) and because there are many EU member states, (UK for one example) who are the source of Europol’s information, which do not completely trust Europol.
- European Police College
- Area of freedom, security and justice
- Visa Information System
- European Gendarmerie Force
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- "European Union launches European Counter Terrorism Centre". The Register. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- "European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) opens on 11 January" (Press release). European Commission. 2013-01-09. Retrieved 2013-01-13.
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- Ashford, Warwick (11 January 2013). "European Cybercrime Centre opens in The Hague". ComputerWeekly.com. Computer Weekly. Retrieved 2013-01-13.
- "External Cooperation". Europol. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Europol.|
- Official Website of Europol
- "Final Design for new Europol Headquarters The Hague". Archived from the original on 2007-09-28.
- Europol convention (main legal instrument until 2010)
- Council Decision of 6 April 2009 establishing the European Police Office (Europol) (governing council decision)