If the Government was to decide to opt-in to this proposal then the UK’s continued participation in Europol would effectively be removed from the list of EU police and criminal justice measures that will be caught by the Government’s separate block opt-out decision, which must be made by 31 May 2014.
Europol is the EU’s law enforcement agency, which aims to achieve a more secure Europe through supporting Member States in their fight against serious organised crime and terrorism. On the 27 March 2013, the Commission published a proposal for a Europol Regulation.
The draft Regulation is designed to achieve four main aims in addition to continuing the existing work of Europol to combat international organised crime, drug trafficking, terrorism, money laundering and cyber-crime:
- to strengthen and clarify the obligation for Member States to supply data to Europol in order for it to analyse and share the information;
- to enable Europol to establish links between the data already in its possession and analyse it more effectively by redesigning the agency’s data processing structure;
- to merge Europol and the European Police College (CEPOL) into a single EU agency, located in The Hague; and
- to increase parliamentary scrutiny of Europol by the EU Parliament and national Parliaments.
The EU Committee has already made it clear that they do not consider the Government to have made a convincing case for exercising the block opt-out from approximately 130 EU police and criminal measures – of which the UK’s continuing engagement with Europol is one.
Commenting on the report, Committee Chairman, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, said:
“Europol provides the UK’s law enforcement agencies with crucial information, analysis and coordination functions, which helps them fight organised crime and terrorism in the UK and beyond. We therefore believe that the Government should exercise its right to opt in to this Regulation, thus removing Europol from the list of pre-Lisbon measures covered by the block opt-out decision.
“While we agree with the Government that some areas of the proposed Regulation need to be clarified, we consider that the UK’s continued participation in Europol is an important part of ensuring the safety and security of British citizens, and that these concerns will best be addressed in the forthcoming negotiations.
“We also believe that the Commission needs to make a more convincing case for the proposed merger of Europol and CEPOL. While the Government also seems to have concerns about this, they appear unconcerned about the possible relocation of CEPOL to The Hague, following their announcement that the agency’s lease at Bramshill will come to an end in March 2014. Our report asks for further information about their position in this regard.”