EUROPOL AND JOINT INVESTIGATIVE TEAMS
Initiative of the Kingdom of Belgium and the Kingdom of Spain with a view to
adopting a Council Act drawing up a Protocol amending the Convention on the
establishment of a European Police Office (Europol Convention), the Protocol
on the interpretation (by way of preliminary rulings) by the Court of Justice of
the Convention on the establishment of a European Police Office and the
Protocol on the privileges and immunities of Europol, the members of its
organs, the deputy directors and the employees of Europol.
Europol's participation in joint investigative teams and Europol's right to ask
Member States to initiate investigations in specific cases.
|Legal base:||(a) Article 43 (1) Europol Convention, Article 7 Protocol on interpretation, by way of preliminary rulings, by the European Court of Justice, and Article 18 Protocol on the privileges and immunities of Europol, the members of its organs, the deputy directors and employees of Europol; consultation; unanimity|
|Basis of consideration:
||(a) Minister's letter of 23 April 2002|
(b) EM of 23 April 2002
|Previous Committee Report:
||(a) HC 152-xxii (2001-02), paragraph 9 (20 March 2002)
|To be discussed in Council:
|Committee's assessment:||Legally and politically important
|Committee's decision:||(a) Cleared in respect of joint investigative teams
6.1 When we considered document (a) in March, we commented
that the combination within one document of a proposal to amend
the Europol Convention in relation to a specific area (participation
in joint investigation teams) with a proposal for a simplified
procedure for amending the Convention as a whole seemed inherently
unsatisfactory. We left the document uncleared and asked the Parliamentary
Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth)
some questions on it.
6.2 The Minister has now written to us explaining that
taking both measures forward together proved to be too ambitious,
and the Presidency has decided to focus on each separately, beginning
with joint investigative teams. In his letter, he also addresses
the question we raised about these teams, and tells us that there
has been some progress in negotiations on this measure. He encloses
an Explanatory Memorandum on the new text which has been deposited
The Minister's letter
6.3 We asked the Minister why he considered that the
inter-relationship of the proposed new Article in the Europol
Convention on civil liabilities and the existing Articles in the
same area needed clarification. He tells us that he has looked
again at the draft provisions and resolved his former concerns.
6.4 Document (b) is a Presidency Note containing the
latest version of the text dealing with Europol's participation
in joint teams and its right to ask Member States to initiate
investigations. There are few substantive changes from the corresponding
provisions in document (a), apart from a new Article dealing with
Europol's right to ask Member States to initiate investigations.
The Minister describes this new provision as follows:
"A new Article 3b allows for Europol to request the initiation
of criminal investigations by Member States, and sets out how
Member States should respond to such requests, including keeping
Europol informed. Member States are not obliged to comply with
such requests, but should they decide not to comply they should
inform Europol of their decision and of the reasons for it. National
security, threats to the success of an ongoing investigation or
the safety of individuals are cited as grounds for not providing
reasons for refusal."
The Government's view
6.5 The Minister comments:
"The Government attaches importance to early amendment
of the Europol Convention to enable Europol officials to participate
in joint investigation teams in a support capacity so that such
teams can operate as envisaged in Article 30(2)(a) of the Treaty
on European Union, the Conclusions of the Tampere European Council
in October 1999 and the special meeting of the Justice and Home
Affairs Council following events on 11 September 2001 in the United
States of America. The Government welcomes and supports the proposed
amendments dealing with liabilities and privileges."
6.6 The Minister then tells us:
"The introduction to [document (b)] currently refers
to the text being submitted to Council for political agreement.
There is no basis for the Council to do this, first because the
European Parliament's opinion on the original proposal is outstanding
and second because there has never actually been a legislative
proposal covering just Europol's participation in joint teams
and Europol's right to ask for an investigation to be initiated.
We have made this point both bilaterally to the Presidency and
in COREPER, and we have also clearly stated that the proposal
remains subject to scrutiny in the UK Parliament, and we understand
that the Presidency now intends to ask the Council to endorse
a general approach on [document (b)]."
6.7 We are relieved that the two disparate parts of
document (a) have been separated. The status of document (b),
however, seems decidedly odd. We understand that the Presidency
is hoping for a "general approach" to the text at this
week's Justice and Home Affairs Council. Following such an outcome,
the precise legal instrument will be drawn up, and, presumably,
sent to the European Parliament. We hope this method of proceeding
will not set a precedent.
6.8 We are pleased that the Minister has apparently
persuaded the Presidency that it should not seek political
agreement to the document at the forthcoming Council. When it
is re-presented as a legislative proposal we shall, of course,
expect it to be deposited for scrutiny. Meanwhile, we are content
to clear document (b) and those parts of document (a) which are
concerned with Europol's participation in joint investigative
teams and its right to ask Member States to initiate investigations.