Strengthening of Europol’s mandate

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ETSK:n lausunto: Strengthening of Europol’s mandate

Key points

The EESC:

  • welcomes the Commission's proposal on strengthening Europol's mandate, seeking to improve data protection safeguards and Europol's research capabilities; this will assist in boosting the fight against organised crime and terrorist activity and help strengthen operational police cooperation in Member States for the protection of citizens;
  • considers that private operators should have an EU-level point of contact where information that may be pertinent for criminal investigations can be reported;
  • welcomes the fact that the proposal seeks to assist crime prevention authorities in finding innovative solutions against international crime and to keep up with the evolving landscape, and that it will also develop Europol's and national enforcement agencies' competence and research capabilities;
  • emphasises that enhancing Europol's capacity should involve prioritising cross-border investigations, in particular in relation to serious attacks against whistle-blowers and investigative journalists;
  • considers that harmonised and up-to-date legislation can lead to more effective examination of data protection issues, while striking a balance between the security requirements of individual Member States and those of the EU;
  • welcomes the creation of a new alert category in support of the Schengen Information System;
  • views the proposed increase in Europol's budget as a positive step towards EU citizens' further protection and as a means to enhance cooperation between Europol and national law enforcement agencies; this increase should nevertheless be reflected in the number of operational staff at Europol and strengthen organisational effectiveness;
  • considers that the proposals extend Europol's role in responding to evolving situations; questions however whether the time has come to allow Europol to act on its own initiative, as its work will still greatly depend on the activities and actions of Member States and the data gathered by national law enforcement agencies;
  • considers that, as organised crime is becoming ever more sophisticated and criminal networks increasingly transnational, more actions towards widening Europol's mandate and scope may need to be taken in the future;
  • recommends that Europol's role and responsibilities be reviewed independently at some point, and that this review should consider the views of civil society and other relevant stakeholders.