The establishment of Europol was agreed to in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, officially known as the Treaty on European Union (TEU) that came into effect in November 1993. The agency started limited operations on 3 January 1994, as the Europol Drugs Unit (EDU). In 1998 the Europol Convention was ratified by all the member states and came into force in October. Europol commenced its full activities on 1 July 1999.
Europol allocates its resources (600 staff, of these, approximately 120 Europol liaison officers (ELOs)) from its headquarters in The Hague. The size of Europol belies the fact that they are in constant liaison with hundreds of different law enforcement organisations, each with their own individual or group seconded to assist Europol's activities.
As of 2007, Europol covers all 27 member states of the European Union. In order to fight international organised crime effectively, Europol cooperates with a number of third countries and organisations as follows (in alphabetical order): Albania, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, CEPOL (European Police College), Colombia, Croatia, Eurojust, European Central Bank, European Commission, European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Republic of Macedonia, Frontex, Iceland, Interpol, Moldova, Norway, OLAF (European Anti-Fraud Office), Russian Federation, Switzerland, SITCEN (EU Joint Situation Centre), Turkey, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, USA, World Customs Organisation. This is done on the basis of cooperation agreements concluded in accordance with the Europol Convention. The Europol External Strategy defines the framework within which Europol is to develop its activities with regard to third partners.
It has been decided that Europol will be converted to a full EU agency on 1 January 2010, thus simplifying the procedure to reform it; until then, reforms have to be made through an amendment to the Europol Convention.
Europol's aim is to improve the effectiveness and co-operation between the competent authorities of the member states primarily by sharing and pooling intelligence to prevent and combat serious international organised crime. Its mission is to make a significant contribution to the European Union's law enforcement efforts targeting organised crime.
Europol has no executive powers. It is a support service for the law enforcement agencies of the EU member states. This means that Europol officials are not entitled to conduct investigations in the member states or to arrest suspects. In providing support, Europol with its tools information exchange, intelligence analysis, expertise and training can contribute to the executive measures carried out by the relevant national authorities.
Europol is a multi-disciplinary agency, comprising not only regular police officers but staff members from the member states' various law enforcement agencies: customs, immigration services, border and financial police, etc. Secondly, Europol helps to overcome the language barriers in international police co-operation. Any law enforcement officer from a member state can address a request to their Europol National Unit (ENU) in her/his mother tongue and receive the answer back in this language.
Three different levels of co-operation are possible: The first one is technical co-operation or to provide training. The next step is strategic co-operation aimed at exchanging general trends in organised crime and how to fight it and the exchange of threat assessments. The top level of co-operation includes the exchange of personal data and requires the fulfilment of Europol's standards in the field of data protection and data security.
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 agreeing a "Ministerial Agreement on the Europol Drugs Unit" in June 1993. 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.
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 included 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 finally came into effect in October 1998 after ratification by all 15 EU national parliaments though some outstanding legal issues (primarily data protection supervision and judicial supervision) ensured it could not formally take up duties until July 1999.
Europol is politically accountable to the Justice and Home Affairs Council via the Europol Management Board. The Council controls the appointment of Europol's Director and Deputy Directors. It also controls Europol's budget, financed from member state contributions, rather than the EU budget and any legislative instruments it deems necessary for Europol. The Europol Management Board is staffed with Interior Ministry officials with one representative from every participating member state. It meets at least twice per year and exercises political control over more routine staffing and budetary matters, amongst other things. The Joint Supervisory Body oversees data protection in Europol and has two representatives from each participating state's data protection supervisory body.
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 jurisdicion 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.
JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS: EUROPOL CONTROVERSIES LEAD TO CALLS FOR MORE TRANSPARENCY.(SENSUS technical director is German secret agent)(Brief Article)
Sep 08, 2001; German secret agent link.Mr Staes has highlighted that a participant in SENSUS, the Munich-based Amt f?r Auslandsfrage (AfA), is...