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Europol HQ in The Hague
|Formed||October 1, 1998|
The Hague, Netherlands
|Employees||1065 (December 2016)|
|Annual budget||€ 116.4 million (FY 2017)|
|Parent department||Council of Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs|
The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), formerly known as the European Police Office (Europol), is the law enforcement agency of the European Union (EU) responsible for criminal intelligence and combating serious international organised crime and terrorism by means of cooperation between the competent authorities of the EU Member States, such as police, customs, immigration service, counter-terrorism unit, border guard and financial intelligence unit. Seated in The Hague, South Holland, the Agency has 1065 staff and a budget of 116.4 million euros.
The Agency has no executive powers, and its officials are not entitled to conduct investigations or to arrest suspects in the Member States. Europol, in providing support through information exchange, intelligence analysis, expertise, and training, can contribute to the executive measures carried out by the competent national authorities.
According to Article 3 of Regulation (EU) 2016/794, Europol's objective 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 [...].
During the 2016 - 2020 strategy cycle, Europol will focus on consolidating all its capabilities and expertise to deliver the most effective support to EU Member State investigations to counter significant pan-European threats—such as cybercrime, serious and organised crime and terrorism. This includes technological developments (e.g. ever-increasing volume of available data, social media and mobile technologies) as well as significant and rapid developments in the areas of terrorism and migration in the year 2015. The previous strategy cycle of 2010 - 2014 laid the foundation for Europol as the European criminal information hub.
The EU Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA) of 2017 identified eight priority crime areas: cybercrime; drug production, trafficking and distribution; migrant smuggling; organised property crime; trafficking in human beings; criminal finances and money laundering; document fraud; and online trade in illicit goods and services.
Europol has its origins in TREVI, a forum for internal security cooperation amongst EEC/EC interior and justice ministers created in 1975 and active until the Maastricht Treaty came into effect in 1993. Germany, with its federal organisation of police forces, had long been in favour of a supranational police organisation at EC level. It tabled a surprise proposal to establish a European Police Office to the European Council meeting in Luxembourg in June 1991. By that December, the Intergovernmental Conference was coming to an end and the member states had pledged themselves to establishing Europol through Article K.1(9) of the Maastricht Treaty. Europol was given the modest role of establishing ‘a Union-wide system for exchanging information’ amongst EU police forces. Delays in ratifying the Maastricht Treaty led to TREVI ministers finalizing the Ministerial Agreement on the Europol Drugs Unit on 2 June 1993 in Copenhagen. This intergovernmental agreement, outside of EU law, led to the establishment of a small team headed by Jürgen Storbeck, a senior German police officer who initially operated from some temporary cabins in a Strasbourg suburb (shared with personnel of the Schengen Information System) while more permanent arrangements were made.
The European Council decided on 29 October 1993 that Europol should be established in The Hague; a former Catholic boys school built in 1910 at Raamweg 47 was chosen as the precise location. The house was used in World War II by the police and intelligence agencies and after the War manned by the Dutch State Intelligence Service until Europol relocated there in 1994.
Once the Maastricht Treaty had come into effect, the slow process of negotiating and ratifying a Europol Convention began. In the meantime, the Europol Drugs Unit (EDU) had its powers extended twice, in March 1995 and again in December 1996 to include a range of trafficking offences in its remit. During this period, information amongst officers could only be exchanged bilaterally, with a central database to be established once the Europol Convention was ratified.
The Europol Convention was signed on 26 July 1995 in Brussels and came into force on 1 October 1998 after being ratified by all the Member States. Europol commenced its full activities on 1 July 1999.
Europol was integrated into European Union competence with Article 88 of the Lisbon Treaty effective 1 December 2009. Subsequently, Council Decision 2009/371/JHA of 6 April 2009 replaced the Europol Convention and reformed Europol as a full EU agency (i.e. an entity of the EU subject to the general rules and procedures applicable to similar agencies) on 1 January 2010 due to different aspirations, such as enhanced support to Member States on countering serious and organised crime, budgetary control by the European Parliament, and administrative simplification.
The Agency's new 32 000 m2 headquarters building, designed by Frank Wintermans, was opened by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on 1 July 2011 in the international zone of the The Hague next to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at Eisenhowerlaan 73.
On 11 January 2013, Director Rob Wainwright and European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström launched the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3 or EC³), a unit of Europol tasked with assisting Member States to dismantle and disrupt cybercrime committed by organised groups to generate large criminal profits (e.g. online fraud), causing serious harm to victims (e.g. online child sexual exploitation) or affecting critical infrastructure and systems in the EU. The purpose of the Centre is to coordinate cross-border law enforcement activities against cybercrime and act as a centre of technological expertise, such as tool development and training. At the time, the Centre was not expected to be fully functional until 2015. Commissioner Malmström stated that the need for a cybercrime centre in Europe was "to protect the open and free internet".
On 25 January 2016, the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) was launched as a new strategic platform within Europol to share information among EU states in tracking movements of Europeans into and from Syria as well as to monitor terrorists' finances and militants' Internet usage.
In effect, Europol assists the EU Member States in their fight against serious international crime, such as illicit drugs, trafficking in human beings, intellectual property crime, cybercrime, euro counterfeiting, and terrorism by serving as a:
In addition, the Agency's tasks in detail include analysis and exchange information, such as criminal intelligence; coordination of investigative and operational action as well as joint investigation teams; preparation of threat assessments, strategic and operational analyses and general situation reports; and developing specialist knowledge of crime prevention and forensic methods. Europol is to coordinate and support other EU bodies established within the area of freedom, security and justice, such as the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL), the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), and EU crisis management structures and missions. The Agency also assists the European Council and the European Commission in developing strategic and operational priorities.
Europol provides strategic analyses and early warning notifications, such as the the Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA) and the Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT), to support decision-making and identification of priorities. For example, the Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) is intended to help policy-makers make decisions on where EU law enforcement should focus their resources in countering cybercrime as well as provide information on developments and emerging threats to governments, citizens and businesses from cybercrime.
In addition to the Management Board and Liaison Bureaux, Europol is organised into three different departments under the Executive Director:
As of December 2016, Europol has 1065 staff, of which 32.3 % are female and 67.7 % male, including employment contracts with Europol, liaison officers from Member States and third states and organisations, Seconded National Experts, trainees and contractors. 201 of the staff are liaison officers and around 100 analysts.
Europol leadership is appointed by the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council. As of September 2017, the Agency was headed by Executive Director Rob Wainwright and Deputy Directors Wil van Gemert, Oldrich Martinu and Luis de Eusebio Ramos. The Agency is accountable to the Justice and Home Affairs Council. together with the European Parliament, it approves Europol’s budget and regulations related to Europol’s work. Each year the Council forwards a special report to the European Parliament on the work of the Agency.
Financial supervision over Europol is aided by a committee of auditors drawn from the membership of the European Court of Auditors and known as the Joint Audit Committee. The Joint Audit Committee is not technically part of the European Court of Auditors as the Europol budget is not part of the overall EU budget. This unusual arrangement preserves the intergovernmental character of Europol. The European Court of Justice has minimal jurisdiction over Europol with its remit extending only to limited interpretation of the Europol Convention. The European Ombudsman, while not given a formal role in the Europol Convention, seems to have gained de facto recognition as an arbitrator in Europol matters relating to requests for access to documents and Europol staff disputes.
The Director is able to enter into agreements for Europol with other countries and international organizations. As of September 2017, Europol cooperates on an operational basis with Albania, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Colombia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Ukraine and United States of America and Interpol. Similarly, the Agency has strategic agreements with China, Russia, Turkey, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and World Customs Organization (WCO).
Office in classical school building from 1910. This office building was used by Europol until 2011.
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