Regulation (EU) 2016/794 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2016 on the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) and replacing and repealing Council Decisions 2009/371/JHA, 2009/934/JHA, 2009/935/JHA, 2009/936/J
Europol (once the European Police Office, now the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation) was established in 1995 and is located in The Hague. Its role is to support and strengthen action by the competent authorities of the Member States and their mutual cooperation in preventing and combating serious crime affecting two or more Member States, terrorism and forms of crime which affect a common interest covered by a Union policy. Europol´s main task is to collect, store, process, analyse and exchange information, including criminal intelligence.
The Lisbon Treaty requires Europol to be established on the basis of a Regulation, adopted by the Council and the European Parliament, setting out its structure, operation, field of action and tasks, and including (for the first time) provision for scrutiny of its activities by the European Parliament, together with national parliaments. The Commission proposed a Regulation in March 2013. Its proposal included provision for the functions of Europol and the European Police College (CEPOL) to be merged within a single European Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation and Training. As both the Council and the European Parliament opposed the merger, the Commission has abandoned this element of its proposal. Europol and CEPOL will continue to operate as independent EU Agencies.
The Regulation was finally adopted in 2016 and entered into force on 1 May 2017. It replaces Decisions 2009/371/JHA, 2009/934/JHA, 2009/935/JHA, 2009/936/JHA and 2009/968/JHA.
The new Regulation makes it easier for Europol to set up specialised units to respond immediately to emerging terrorist threats and other forms of serious and organised crime. It also includes clear rules for existing units or centres such as the Internet Referral Unit, which ensures the swift removal of websites praising terrorist acts or encouraging EU citizens to join terrorist organisations, and the European Counter Terrorism Centre, which officially started work on 1 January 2016.
Europol will in some cases be able to exchange information directly with private entities such as firms or NGOs, which should enable it to work faster. In order to avoid information gaps in the fight against organised crime and terrorism, the new rules state that member states should provide Europol with the data necessary to fulfil its objectives. To this end, Europol should also submit an annual report to the European Parliament, the Council, the Commission and national parliaments on the information provided by individual member states, with a view to encouraging further information sharing.
MEPs have ensured that Europol's new powers will go hand in hand with increased data protection safeguards and parliamentary scrutiny. The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) will be responsible for monitoring Europol’s work and there will be a clear complaints procedure under EU law for citizens.
To ensure democratic control, Europol’s work will be overseen by a Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group with members from both national parliaments and the European Parliament.
The Regulation does not apply to Denmark, which has thus signed an agreement on operational and strategic cooperation with Europol. For the time being, it instead applies to the United Kingdom, which subsequently notified its intention to take part in this instrument.
Reference number: Regulation (EU) 2016/794
Issue date: 11-05-16
Official Journal: OJ L 135, 24 May 2016, pp. 53-114