Sun. Oct 17th, 2021
  • Europol will be able to add alerts to the Schengen Information System
  • Better collaboration with private parties
  • New independent Fundamental Rights Officer

MEPs agreed on Tuesday to boost Europol’s capacity to support crime-fighting in the member states.

The Civil Liberties Committee has adopted its position on two proposals aimed at reinforcing Europol’s mandate and balancing the new capabilities with stronger fundamental rights safeguards and oversight.

The texts were approved with 47 in favour, 16 against (data processing, cooperation, research and development), and 48 in favour, 15 against (Schengen Information System alerts).

The first initiative allows Europol to enter alerts into the Schengen Information System (SIS) – currently only member states can do it. Because the SIS is widely used by front-line security officers in the member states, the new capabilities could help plug information gaps about third-country nationals. Europol could add information alerts about criminal suspects or convicted people, and these would stay active in the system for three years.

Under the second draft bill, Europol will be able to exchange data with private companies, for example communication services, when dealing with terrorist content or child sexual abuse material. In certain circumstances, Europol will also be allowed to process personal data, which will have to be deleted after a certain time.

Stronger mandate, stronger oversight

The updated mandate of the European police agency reflects rapid changes in technology, which is also impacting criminal activities and law enforcement. The reinforced powers allow Europol to pursue research and development projects in relevant areas, and to help member states in screening foreign direct investment from a safety perspective.

To balance the new capabilities with rights safeguards, Europol’s Management Board must also nominate a Fundamental Rights Officer, and its officers should receive training about fundamental rights. As regards data processing, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) will have oversight over Europol’s personal data processing operations, and work with the agency’s Data Protection Officer.

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After the vote, rapporteur Javier Zarzalejos (EPP, Spain) said: “All the political groups actively participated in the negotiations and the European Parliament has a strong mandate to negotiate with the Council. The new Europol Regulation will mean a reinforced tool for Europol to support the work of Member States’ law enforcement authorities in countering the evolving and increasingly complex security threats.”

Next steps

Before negotiations with the Council can start, the draft negotiating positions will need to be endorsed by the whole house in a future session.

Further information