Statewatch News Online: EU: UK influence over EU internal security policy-making is "remarkable", says Europol chief

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UK influence over EU internal security policy-making is "remarkable", says Europol chief

Speaking to the European Institute of University College London at the end of May, Europol's director Rob Wainwright said that the "UK's contribution to policy-making in EU internal security is invaluable" and that it is "without doubt… one of the most influential Member States in shaping European internal security legislation." [1]

Wainwright - despite noting that he should "refrain from straying directly into political affairs" - argued that "the UK should not lose its capacity to influence EU law making," and that it must "remain at the heart of the decision-making process," over which its influence to date has been "remarkable."

Retaining influence

There is the possibility that in 2014 this influence may diminish significantly if UK politicians choose to undertake the "mother of all opt outs" and end its participation in EU policing and criminal law measures. [2]

Wainwright, who has worked at Europol since 2000 and became director in 2009, seems keen to see the UK remaining a part of EU policing and criminal law policy-making and practice, noting that Europol is "stronger with the UK as an active partner than not."

He noted a number of instances over the last decade in which the UK has decisively influenced EU internal security measures. The development of the second-generation Schengen Information System, for example, saw the UK making most of the proposals for the system's requirements (which other Member States subsequently agreed), as well as providing "the lion's share" of the technology, based on the Police National Computer and the UK's border control systems.

There has been a significant impact upon EU policing strategies, with the UK pushing in 2005 for Council Conclusions on intelligence-led policing and a European Criminal Intelligence Model, [3] which has now become the "cornerstone of the serious organised crime threat assessment (SOCTA) carried out by Europol."

The model of intelligence-led policing has been adopted enthusiastically not just by Europol, [4] but increasingly by other Member States: "this British model is now a main feature of policing across Europe," said Wainwright.

UK enthusiasm for the EU's internal security architecture stems from pragmatism and results rather than any deeply held belief in "the European integration project", however. Europol is also seen as offering "better value-for-money access to cooperation mechanisms than much more expensive other options - e.g. bilateral links. UK has closed a number of bilateral posts in Europe in the last 2 years and transferred work to its liaison office at Europol. Other Member States are doing the same."

"Safeguarding liberties"

The Europol director also discussed the highly controversial proposal for the establishment of an EU Passenger Name Record system, under which information provided by passengers to airlines is then passed on to law enforcement agencies.

The original Commission proposal excluded intra-EU flights, but "after a UK initiative", said Wainwright, the proposal was amended to include them, [5] although it is likely that this will initially be optional.

"Members of the European Parliament have already expressed their concern about the proposed EU PNR system," said Green MEP Jan Albrecht in an EU Observer article in April. "The jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice and other national courts with regard to the EU-US PNR agreement suggests that they would also find the Commission's proposal incompatible with EU law." [6]

Wainwright, understandably, is positive about the opportunities such policies apparently provide for fighting crime and terrorism, as well as for civil liberties he argues. He told the audience at UCL that: "British citizens are safer and better protected when the UK is fully-engaged in policy-making at EU level because EU legislation is better as a result."

"UK involvement in EU internal security policy-making is also necessary to ensure that fundamental rights and individual liberties are fully enshrined in the design of EU internal security policies… [T]he UK's commitment to this field of EU policy will also help to safeguard the liberties held dear in the UK."

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"It is certainly true that the UK has been, and is, a major player on EU policing and internal security policies. However, there is little evidence that the UK's role has safeguarded civil liberties. On the contrary, the UK proposed that the Commission's EU PNR scheme be extended from just monitoring flights in and out of the EU to include internal flights between Member States as well. And during the Commission consultation the UK backed the total surveillance of all movement in the EU by land, sea and air in the EU and within each country. When it comes to internal security the UK is on the side of the hawks."

Rob Wainwright, text of speech given to UCL European Institute on 23 May 2012, 'The future of the EU internal security after 2014: Will the UK remain a major player?'
[2] Steve Peers, 'The Mother of all opt-outs? The UK's possible opt-out from prior third pillar measures in June 2014', January 2012
[3] 'Council conclusions on intelligence-led policing and the development of the Organised Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA)', 3 October 2005
[4] 'Europol boosts its reach, scope and information-gathering', Statewatch News Online, 1 June 2012
[5] 'UK seeking to extend Commission proposal to cover intra-EU flights from the start', Statewatch News Online, February 2011
[6] Jan Phillipp Albrecht, 'EU plans for big brother data analysis must be nipped in the bud', EUobserver, 24 April 2012

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