UK shuns working arrangement between the European Police College and the Russian interior ministry on security grounds

The UK government has declared that it is "unable to support" a working arrangement between the European Police College (CEPOL) and the Academy of Management of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, citing "concerns about engagement with some parts of the Russian security infrastructure."

"The agreement creates particular difficulties for UK as the host Member State for CEPOL because of the likely need to facilitate training courses that may be attended by Russian security personnel," says the declaration by the UK, whose delegation submitted a scrutiny reservation to the proposal for an agreement during a meeting of the Council of the European Union's Law Enforcement Working Party on 22 May. [1]

The Netherlands delegation also submitted a scrutiny reservation, although no subsequent objections appear to have emerged. The UK, meanwhile, said that it will "not be able to guarantee visas for Russian officials and security personnel seeking to attend CEPOL courses in the UK." CEPOL's headquarters is located in Bramshill, Hampshire.

Despite the UK's concerns, the working arrangement was agreed by the Council of the EU's Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) on 29 May, and submitted to the meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 6 and 7 June for approval as one of numerous "non-legislative" activities. [2]

The preamble to the CEPOL-Russia working arrangement confirms:

"the mutual interest to enhance efficiency of law enforcement bodies in fight against cross-border crime through training course for police officers [sic] aiming to increase knowledge of national police systems, tools and mechanisms of the European cooperation, as well as of specific subjects related to drug trafficking and transnational organised crime, illegal migration, border control and trafficking in human beings."

It permits a number of joint activities including participation by officials and employees of both institutions in joint training courses; "further harmonisation of standards of police training"; and "in-depth exchange of best practices". The arrangement does not allow the exchange of "confidential law enforcement data, including personal data" or "restricted and secret information". [3]

Meanwhile Europol, the EU's police agency, has for some time been attempting to reach an agreement with Russia that would allow the two parties to exchange personal and confidential data. There is currently a strategic agreement between the two, but upgrading this to a cooperation agreement would expand the types of information that could be exchanged. According to its 2012 work programme Europol hoped to conclude such an agreement in 2012, but negotiations appear to have stalled, for reasons unknown. [4]

The UK's rejection of the working arrangement between CEPOL and Russia is unsurprising. Diplomatic relations between the UK and Russia have frequently been tense, and a number of high-profile cases in recent years have contributed to this. The poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko by polonium in 2006 led to attempts by the British government to extradite Andrei Lugovoi - a former KGB bodyguard and currently a member of the Russian parliament - whom they accuse of the murder. Just over a week ago, Litvinenko's wife announced that she had "lost confidence in a coroner's inquest as the British government said it is considering whether to allow a public inquiry into [Litvinenko's] death." [5]

In January 2006, Russia accused the UK of using a hollowed-out rock left on a street on the outskirts of Moscow as a transmitter that permitted communication between British diplomats and Russian agents. [6]

Most recently, revelations that GCHQ had monitored the telecommunications and hacked the computers of government officials representing countries attending G20 summits - including Turkey, South Africa and Russia - led to angry reactions from some politicians and diplomats. [7]

[1] General Secretariat, Working Arrangement between the European Police College (CEPOL) and the Academy of Management of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, 5047/2/13 REV 2, 31 May 2013; Law Enforcement Working Party, Summary of discussions, 10324/13, 10 June 2013
[2] Council of the European Union, List of "A" items, 10175/13, 5 June 2013
[3] European Police College,
Working Arrangement between the European Police College (CEPOL) and the "Academy of Management of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation", 18004/12, 21 December 2012
[4] Europol, Work Programme 2013, 12667/12, 17 July 2012
[5] Jeremy Hodges, Wife of Russian Ex-Spy Litvinenko Loses Confidence in U.K. Probe, Bloomberg, 11 June 2013
[6] Nick Paton Walsh, Richard Norton-Taylor, Ewen MacAskill, The cold war is over, but rock in a park suggests the spying game still thrives, The Guardian, 24 January 2006
[7] Julian Borger, Luke Harding, Miriam Helder, David Smith, G20 summits: Russia and Turkey react with fury to spying revelations, The Guardian, 17 June 2013

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