Europol annual report and work programme for 2004


Europol annual report for 2002

Europol, the European Police Office established by the EU in 1995, has produced drafts of its annual report for 2002 and work programme for 2004. As usual, the reports are largely a public relations exercise - the annual report is a sanitised version of that produced for governments and fails to include even the minimal statistics provided in earlier reports; the work programme is largely a combination of the vague and the aspirational. Reading between the lines, however, a number of observations are worthy of note.

Primarily, Europol has a new 'goal' of reaching:

"a situation where two thirds of all activities are operational, a balance that obviously this young organisation has not yet achieved. Activities and results in 2002 demonstrate that the organisation is on its journey towards this goal."

What is interesting is how the stated objective of the 1995 Convention: "improving effectiveness and cooperation of the competent authorities of the Member States", has apparently been surpassed by prioritising the operational development of Europol as an organisation. This decision was not taken by EU governments acting in the Council but by Europol's Management Board. At the time the Convention was signed, the Director of the UK NCIS could not "even see over the horizon any kind of operational arm for Europol" - how quickly times have changed.

Counter-terrorism

The annual report notes that events following 11th September "forced the organisation to reprioritise its work", leading to the creation of counter-terrorism task force that was later made permanent. "Practical difficulties" and "serious gaps in completeness and timeliness of the flow of information" were encountered, likely due to reluctance to cooperate on the part of certain police and security agencies who have traditionally guarded their "patch". It is interesting to note the role of the European Police Chief's Task Force here:

"The [Europol counter-terrorism]Task Force also worked on different other projects, based on initiatives or requests from the Member States or other bodies like the European Union PCTF covering a wide range of issues in relation to the current threat".

The PCOTF has no legal basis in EU Treaties or legal personality, no formal lines of accountability or democratic scrutiny and was established solely on the basis of a Recommendation from the Tampere European Council in October 1999.

All other terrorism projects, which had earlier included "eco-terrorism" and "anarchist terrorism" were put on hold because of the focus on "extremist Islamic terrorism", says the report.

"Illegal immigration"

Illegal immigration stands out as one of the key activities in which Europol is involved. The report cites "political interest among the Member States" as a reason for this, though it is clear from the reports of the Europol national units that, together with drug trafficking, this is where the police in the member states see Europol's practical value. There were also three "High Impact Operations" related to illegal immigration in which Europol participated. Again, the role of the PCTF is noted:

"Police Chiefs Task Force Action Plan became a valid basis for Member States, Accession Countries and Europol in combating Illegal Immigration and Trafficking in Human Beings".

Rather ambiguous statistics are provided on operations RIO I and II, which targeted airports in the member states. "RIO I" (2-4 April 2002) "intercepted" 410 migrants and "detected" 4 facilitators. "RIO II" (24 April - 21 May 2002), which also included non-EU states, reported 4,597 "interceptions", "34 incidents on the facilitation of migrants" and the "detection of 30 individual facilitators". What will concern refugee and immigrant support groups is the extent to which these "High Impact Operations" took into account the rights and needs of the 5,000 people that were "intercepted". It is also questionable whether the 34 stated "incidents of facilitation" and 34 "detections" that were reported represent a legitimate use of resources for a month of multilateral police operations. Another operation, "Pegasus", checked almost 30,000 containers on roads, railways and at ports over a three-day period in May 2002. This resulted in the "interception of ten facilitators". No figures or numbers are given on controlled deliveries (of drugs and people).

Up until 1999, annual reports contained a breakdown of Europol activities according to type of offence - these are no longer provided. It is possible, however, to extrapolate limited information from the annex to the 2002 report which contains short contributions from the Europol national units. Of those that provided statistical information, it is clear that immigration represents a major part of Europol's operational workload. Finland reported 75 "cases initiated", 24 of which concerned illegal immigration (and 27 drugs). "Greece initiated 162 new cases across all serious crime areas", 121 of which concerned immigration. Sweden reported that the "second most frequent crime area is Illegal Immigration" (the first being drugs).

The only comprehensive statistics provided in the report concern the overall number of "initiated cases", which increased from 2,268 in 2001 to 3,413 in 2002 (up 50.5%). The total number of messages exchanged (requests for and exchanges of information) through Europol increased by a similar rate, from 45,222 in 2001 to 69,822 in 2002 (up 54.4%).

Counterfeiting euros and financial crime

Europol is the central contact point for forged euros and the report cites 167,532 counterfeit notes for the year at a rate of "1 counterfeit per day for every 16 million genuine notes in circulation". The total number of forgeries for the year 2002 was 167,532. "It was also noticed that after a rather calm first four months, both the quality and quantity of the Euro counterfeits increased constantly. The main focus of counterfeiters was placed on the €50 banknote".

Cybercrime

The report notes that "Europol and Member States have studied the need and the possibility of establishing a High Tech Crime Centre at Europol". As with the creation of "high-tech crime" units in national police and intelligence services in the member states, the immediate question is the extent to which their activities concern the investigation of specific offences, or whether - as many suspect - these agencies are primarily concerned with the surveillance, interception and intelligence gathering under the guise of high-tech crime.

Europol also participated in activities aimed at producing a feasibility study for a Database of Child Pornography at the General Secretariat of Interpol, under the auspices of the G8 group.

Computer systems

The agency continues to develop intelligence databases within the Europol Information System (EIS). However, overall development of the EIS was delayed "due to unexpected technical problems (anomalies) that could not be handled by the Consortium in the planned time schedule". This included the "bankruptcy of one of the sub-contractors". Version 0.2 of the EIS, which ocvers euro counterfeiting, was released for testing at the end of 2002; version 0.2 (covering all offences in Europol's mandate) will be developed and implemented during 2003/4. Other systems include the "Ecstasy Logo System (ELS)", "Illicit Laboratory Comparison System (EILCS)" (drug production), "bomb database", "software programme to receive and analyse the information on particular suspicious transactions" ("so far only Netherlands and Belgium are active partners within this system") and the "European Vehicle Identification Database (EuVID).

Staff & budget

The report notes that 90 officials were recruited to Europol in 2002. According to Europol's 2002 budget, this represents a total staff of 260, with another 60 or so liaison officers seconded from the member states. On 28 February 2002, a supplementary budget of €3,160,000 for counter-terrorism activities was adopted, taking the total Europol budget for 2002 to €51,664,000.

Cooperation with non-EU states and agencies

Co-operation agreements with 10 countries and international organisations "came into force and were implemented, including the exchange of information". Liaison Officers from Norway, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia, Czech Republic and Poland took up their task at Europol. The other four agreements in force are believed to be Iceland, the European Central bank, World Customs Organisation and the USA (with which the agreement was signed amid huge concerns over data protection: Europol-USA agreement). Europol also has an agreement with Interpol, and "recruited a Liaison Officer for its planned office at the ICPO Interpol General Secretariat in Lyon".

The report notes that 10 further agreements "were completed and are awaiting ratification". The countries are not stated, though are known to include Latvia and Cyprus. Negotiations with Albania, Croatia, Former Republic of Yugoslavia, Former Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovak Republic, Russia, Turkey and Romania were all underway during 2000.

Negotiations to formalise an agreement with Eurojust "progressed well" and continue in 2003.

Work programme 2004

The work programme lists the "main priority areas" as:

"Terrorism, Drugs (heroin, cocaine, cannabis and synthetic drugs), crimes against persons and Forgery of Money including Euro".

It should be noted that the annual report considers the strategic objective in regard to "crimes against persons" to be the prevention of illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings, as well as sexual exploitation, child abuse and pornography.

Documentation


'Europol Annual Report 2002', EUROPOL 15, 8578/03, 25.4.03
'Europol work programme 2004', EUROPOL 17, 8580/03, 28.4.03


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