web: Europol goes global in the hunt for intelligence and analysis:
This is the second article in
a three-part series. The first
article, covering Brazil and Mexico, was published last week.
In November last year,
following a meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel
Barroso, the new Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili
said that "the priority for the Georgian government is European
integration, and integration into NATO, into Euro-Atlantic area.
We will do everything possible to speed up this process."
One step in the direction
of European integration will be the conclusion of a cooperation
agreement between Europol and Georgia. It is also an unavoidable
step: following the establishment of the Eastern Partnership
negotiation framework in 2009, signing an agreement with Europol
became "one of the preconditions to be met by Georgia before
it could start the negotiations on a visa-liberalisation agreement
with the EU," says Europol's business case for the country.
This conditionality "has
substantially increased the political and strategic significance
of a cooperation agreement," according to Europol, and "Georgian
authorities have shown considerable interest," making "several
to acquire about legal and practical options",
including in the context of numerous visits to Europol.
crime groups are "steadily growing in scale"
The South Caucasus nation,
which has a population of around 4,500,000, is of interest to
the EU's policing agency because of its associations with a wide
number of "threats to EU internal security" - drug
trafficking, organised property crime, smuggling, illegal immigration,
counterfeiting, money laundering, extortion, and fraud.
Of particular interest
to Europol are Georgian organised crime groups (OCGs), which
have "been active in the EU for more than a decade, steadily
growing in scale over that time."
member states" - including Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic,
France, Germany and Spain - "are facing serious issues with
criminality caused by Georgian organised crime, which by its
nature is very international and has interlinked clusters in
many countries," says the business case.
goal": intelligence and analysis
Europol wants to conclude
"a strategic cooperation agreement", which would not
permit the exchange of personal data, in order "to get a
better strategic overview of Georgian organised crime impacting
on the EU and its Member States."
If possible, though, the
agency wants more: "the ultimate goal would be to conclude
an operational cooperation agreement, which would allow for the
exchange of intelligence and analysis."
The legal framework governing
Europol's relations with third countries requires an assessment
of data protection to be carried out before the conclusion of
an agreement, in order to ensure that it is "adequate",
a conclusion it seems likely to reach in the case of Georgia.
The Georgian Law on Personal
Data Protection entered into force on 1 May 2012 "and it
is by and large in line with EU Personal Data Protection Directive
(95/46/EC)," a representative of the Georgian Young Lawyers'
Association (GYLA) told Statewatch.
As in the EU, Georgia's
general data protection legislation "does not apply to the
activity of police in Georgia and this issue is regulated by
the existing criminal law rules." In the EU, national legal
regimes cover data processing by the police and law enforcement
bodies, while cross-border exchange is regulated by a separate
European law. 
Nino Gvedashvili from
the Tblisi-based NGO Human Rights House told Statewatch
that under the previous government, data protection issues were
neglected in practice and "in some cases, even in law as
The new government under
Prime Minister Ivanishvili came to power in October 2012, nearly
six months after the new data protection law was passed, and
Gvedashvili says that they have promised to improve upon the
previous government's record. Currently, however, it is "hard
to evaluate the practice of Georgian police."
The European Commission
clearly feels that Georgian law enforcement data protection standards
are sufficient - a document from last year on the "Eastern
Partnership Roadmap 2012-13: the bilateral dimension" makes
no mention of any need to improve the legal or policy framework.
Instead, Georgia should
"enhance the efficiency of the fight against crime"
by ratifying UN and Council of Europe conventions, adopting and
implementing "effective standards of protection and enforcement
of intellectual property rights in order to combat counterfeiting."
The Commission also feels
that the country should "enhance regional cooperation,"
as well as "cooperation with CEPOL [the European Police
College] and Europol."
The requirement for Europol
to ensure "adequate" data protection standards in making
cooperation agreements, however, means that other concerns may
be left unexamined. The GYLA told Statewatch that
the law governing information-gathering by the police "features
a number of legislative flaws, which explicitly jeopardises protection
of human rights."
The law does not "guarantee
protective mechanisms, which on its turn requires specifically
and strictly prescribed regulation," the Association
said. While courts have a say in the lawfulness of initiating
covert surveillance operations, judicial oversight then ceases
and is not taken into account for the process of covert surveillance.
Georgian law currently
gives the police significant powers to gather information on
a variety of people, without clear judicial or democratic oversight,
according to the GYLA. They say that "the monitoring
terms and appeal mechanisms should also be defined as well as
the scope of individuals who might be subject to secret overhearing,"
and that "interdepartmental normative acts regulating specific
rules for conduct of secret overhearing should be publicised."
Problems are not only
to be found in the "legislative flaws", they say. In
recent years "the police abused their power and eavesdropped
illegally on a lot of people."
In 2010 Nino Gvedashvili
of Human Rights House warned that new legislative amendments
"do not increase protection of civil rights, but the reverse,"
while the director of the NGO Human Rights Centre warned
that "the legal amendments allow the creation of a police
It appears that now -
for the time being - the situation has improved somewhat. The
GYLA said that the change in government has led to "quite
a few high rank police officials" facing prosecution for
"illegal interception and illegal gathering [of] the private
1 | 2
Prime Minister reiterates country's Euro-Atlantic integration,
Trend, 12 November 2012
 Europol, Business Case:
Cooperation with Georgia, 4 April 2012
Framework Decision 2008/977/JHA of 27 November 2008 on the protection
of personal data processed in the framework of police and judicial
cooperation in criminal matters
 European Commission, Eastern
Partnership Roadmap 2012-13: the bilateral dimension,
15 May 2012
 Shorena Latatia, "Police
State" Fears in Georgia, Institute for War &
Peace Reporting, 4 March 2011