Europol’s amended Regulation enters into force

(Source: Europol)

Today, on 28 June 2022, key amendments to the Europol Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/794) enter into force, introducing a number of changes to this legal act. Based on the European Commission’s proposal, the European Parliament and the Council have agreed to strengthen Europol’s capacity to better support the EU Member States in combating serious and organised crime and terrorism.

The amendments to the Europol Regulation introduce, in particular, changes in the following areas:

  • Support of a criminal investigation: Subject to conditions laid down in the amendments to the Regulation, Europol will be able to process personal data without the Data Subject Categorisation (DSC), for as long as and whenever necessary for the support of a specific ongoing criminal investigation. This is in particular relevant for dealing with large and complex datasets, for which the DSC can be identified only when the relevant information is extracted and analysed. A transitional regime details the conditions for information that has been processed by Europol prior to the amendments to the Europol Regulation.
  • Research and innovation: Europol will be able to support the EU Member States to use emerging technologies, explore new approaches, and develop common technological solutions – including in the field of artificial intelligence. One of the main novelties introduced is an explicit legal basis to process personal data for the purposes of research and innovation. However, this possibility is accompanied by strict data protection safeguards which will be applicable to such processing.
  • Cooperation with private parties: Private parties hold an increasing amount of data that may be relevant for criminal investigations. Under the amended legal framework, Europol will be able to receive data directly from those parties. The Amending Regulation also introduces tailored rules regulating cooperation with private parties in the context of online crisis situations and online dissemination of child sexual abuse material.
  • Schengen Information System (SIS): Europol will support the EU Member States in processing data transmitted by third countries or international organisations and may propose that Member States enter information alerts in the SIS.
  • Own-initiative investigations: Europol’s Executive Director may propose opening a national investigation into a specific crime which concerns only one Member State but affects a common interest covered by a Union policy. It will be up to the national authorities to decide whether or not to comply with this request.
  • Fundamental Rights Officer (FRO): The amendments to the Europol Regulation introduce an independent FRO, in addition to the independent Data Protection Officer (DPO) which already exists at Europol.
  • European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS): Since 1 May 2017, the EDPS has held the task of supervising the personal data processing by Europol. The amendments to the Europol Regulation will further strengthen the oversight functions of the EDPS.

Europol is the nerve centre of the EU’s internal security architecture. With its platforms, databases, and analytical services, Europol is connecting law enforcement authorities across the EU and beyond to tackle serious and organised crime and terrorism. Recent intelligence analyses into the organised crime landscape have shown that crime is more fluid and flexible than previously thought, and the use of violence is increasing, as is the use of corruption and the abuse of legal business structures.

Europol’s Executive Director, Catherine De Bolle, said:

It is the role of law enforcement to implement and protect the rule of law. I am concerned by the impact of serious and organised crime on the daily lives of Europeans, our economy, and the resilience of our state institutions. I therefore welcome the amended Regulation as it will considerably improve the efficiency of Europol’s support to the law enforcement authorities of the European Union in fighting serious and organised crime and terrorism.

The Chair of Europol’s Management Board, Jérôme Bonet, said:

This Regulation paves the way for new perspectives for Europol through enhanced support to national law enforcement authorities. Quality relationships with private parties, innovative solutions, new operational partnerships, an increased ability to process large and complex datasets and improved public confidence in the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation are the key achievements that will be game-changers in the fight against serious and organised crime and terrorism.

The European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said:

Because fighting organised crime and terrorism depends on police cooperation at European level, Europol is irreplaceable in supporting the law enforcement authorities in their investigations. With its stronger mandate, Europol will be able to step up its expertise and operational capabilities to become the EU information hub on criminal activities and a cornerstone of EU’s internal security architecture.

The European’s Parliament Rapporteur on the Europol Regulation, MEP Javier Zarzalejos, said:

The European Parliament had repeatedly asked for changes in Europol’s Regulation so the Agency was able to adapt to the evolving and increasingly complex security threats. The entry into force of the new Regulation marks a substantial leap forward in the capabilities of Europol, in its ability to support Member States, in its governance framework and in the enhanced system of safeguards the co-legislators put in place.

The French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, represented by Frédéric Veaux, General Director of the French National Police, said:

We can be proud of the progress made, all of which has a clear operational purpose and strengthens confidence in Europol. I want to convey my heartfelt thanks for this achievement, which will allow us to offer better protection to EU citizens against terrorist attacks and serious and organised crime.

Timeline

  • In accordance with Article 68 of the Europol Regulation of 2017, the European Commission shall ensure that every five years an evaluation assessing in particular the impact, effectiveness and efficiency of Europol and of its working practices is carried out.
  • In December 2020, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Regulation amending the Europol Regulation, with a view to reinforcing the mandate of Europol. The proposed Regulation aimed at rendering Europol’s cooperation with private parties, providing an enhanced legal basis for processing large and complex datasets, including personal data of data subjects unrelated to a crime, and reinforcing Europol’s role in research and innovation for law enforcement.
  • In February 2022, the European Parliament and the Council reached a provisional agreement on the proposal for a regulation.
  • The European Parliament agreed to the amendments to the Europol Regulation on 4 May 2022.
  • On 24 May 2022, the Council of the European Union adopted the Regulation amending the Europol Regulation.
  • Today, on 28 June 2022, the amended Europol Regulation enters into force and becomes applicable.

 

With a stronger mandate of Europol comes stronger oversight

In accordance with Article 88 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Europol’s activities are subject to scrutiny.

Therefore, any regulatory amendments will be subject to robust safeguards regarding protecting fundamental rights, including the right to privacy. For this purpose, the amendments to the Europol Regulation introduce an independent Fundamental Rights Officer (FRO), in addition to the independent Data Protection Officer (DPO) which already exists at Europol.

In addition, the amended Regulation will further strengthen the European Data Protection Supervisor’s (EDPS) oversight function. Since 1 May 2017, the EDPS has held the task of supervising the personal data processing by Europol as of 1 May 2017.

The amendment to the Europol Regulation also strengthens the Joint Parliamentary Security Group, which politically monitors Europol’s activities in fulfilling its mission.

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