Statewatch press release, for
release on: 7 February 2002
and development of Europol -
towards an unaccountable FBI in Europe (pdf version)
EU governments signed the Europol Convention
in July 1995. Four months later, Statewatch published the first
publicly available draft of the text together with a detailed
analysis to encourage open debate on the issues it raised. Six
years later, this Convention is being rewritten to give Europol
operational powers and a much wider remit and open debate needs
as much encouragement as ever. A new report from Statewatch by
Ben Hayes examines the key developments and critical issues -
to order a copy
* Under the Convention Europol was set up to act as both a clearing
house for bilateral and multilateral exchanges of data
and as curator and custodian of a central EU intelligence database
on organised crime, and when it was agreed every opportunity
was taken to stress this non-operational constitution. But by
next year, Europol officers will be participating in joint investigation
teams operating in two or more EU member states.
* It is clear that Europol has operated, since its creation as
the Europol Drugs Unit in 1993, within the widest possible interpretation
of its legal basis and that restrictions have probably been disregarded
at times. This is because of ambiguity in the original agreement,
minimal supervision of its implementation and a lack of independent
scrutiny and management. Europols development has been
tarnished by several alleged incidents of corruption.
* The member states have increased Europols budget year-on-year
since 1994, and from an initial staff of 18, 260 posts will be
funded in 2002, with at least another 60 liaison officers seconded
from the member states.
* Some 17 forms of crime have been added to Europols competence,
replacing the original crime related approach with
a broad, proactive and unregulated mandate.
* Europol has extensive powers to collect and store information
on individuals and categories of people but the data protection
regime may fail to guarantee the enforcement of established human
rights and privacy laws. In amending the Convention, these rules
may be weakened further.
* The Council of the European Union has begun approving a series
of cooperation agreements that will allow another 23 non-EU states
and agencies to exchange data with Europol. Its relationship
with other existing and planned EU law enforcement offices and
databases will effectively extend its powers further.
* Fostering EU-wide cooperation in organised crime investigations
was the rationale behind Europol, but while its role is being
expanded, it appears that some national police forces appear
reluctant to accept their obligation to share intelligence and
may prefer to cooperate bilaterally on a case-by-case basis.
* In May 2001, the Swedish Presidency of the EU acknowledged
murmurs of discontent over the democratic control
of Europol, all of which stemmed from the weak provisions in
the original Convention. However, the European Parliament remains
on the margins of the decision-making process and the Council
has proposed that future amendments of the Europol Convention
should no longer require ratification by the 15 national parliaments.
Revisions will simply be implemented after unanimous agreement
in the EU Council of Ministers.
* In December, the Belgian presidency proposed a wider competence
for the European Court of Justice over the interpretation and
implementation of the Europol Convention. However, Europol will
continue to enjoy far-reaching immunities from the legal process
and is not subject to various regulatory controls on policing
usually found at the national level.
Ben Hayes of Statewatch comments:
The vast extension of Europols mandate, the framework
for joint investigation teams and the EU Convention on mutual
legal assistance in criminal matters provides a logical and practical
basis for the development of an informal and unaccountable EU-FBI.
Few people should need reminding that all law enforcement agencies,
even those in their infancy, must be democratically controlled
and fully accountable to the courts.
For further information please contact: Ben Hayes: (00
44) (0)208 802 1882
The activities and development of Europol - towards an unaccountable
FBI in Europe: covers history and development; operational
activities and powers; mandate and competence; approaches to
specific forms of crime; problems at Europol; relationship with
other EU agencies; management, judicial control and democratic
accountability; the decision-making process; the Europol acquis
of texts adopted; budgets and staff; proposed amendments to the
A Statewatch publication, 32 pages, A4, charts, diagrams and
£10.00 per copy ISBN 1 874481 18 0
Available from: Statewatch, PO Box 1516, London N16 0EW, UK
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