Select Committee on European Communities Twenty-Ninth Report


21 July 1998

By the Select Committee appointed to consider Community proposals, whether in draft or otherwise, to obtain all necessary information about them, and to make reports on those which, in the opinion of the Committee, raise important questions of policy or principle, and on other questions to which the Committee considers that the special attention of the House should be drawn.



(P)8033/5/97 Rules concerning the receipt of information by Europol from third States and third bodies


  1.    Crime and criminals do not respect national boundaries. Effective crime prevention and detection, particularly in relation to terrorism, illicit drug trafficking and money laundering, requires international co-operation. The European Union has responded in a number of ways, not least by the creation of the European Police Office (Europol). The Maastricht Treaty expressly defined Member States' common interest in police co-operation as including "a Union-wide system for exchanging information" within Europol (Treaty on European Union, Article K.1.9).

  2.    The principal tasks of Europol include facilitating exchange of information, collection, analysis and provision of information and intelligence, support for national investigations and maintenance of computerised information.[1] The ability of Europol to work together with third parties in a global environment will be an important factor in the success of its work in the fight against serious international crime. The Convention of 26 July 1995 establishing Europol expressly provides for Europol to establish and maintain relations with third States and third bodies and to exchange information with them.

  3.    The Europol Convention enters into force on 1 October 1998.[2] During the four years since signature, much work has been undertaken on the detailed rules and regulations[3] enabling Europol to take up its activities. These rules and regulations cannot be formally adopted until the Convention takes effect but drafts have been agreed at the political level. Though not strictly necessary for Europol to commence its operations, four sets of rules have been agreed governing the relations of Europol with third States and bodies:

  Europol 26—Rules concerning the external relations of Europol with bodies linked to the European Union.

  Europol 27—Rules concerning the transmission of personal data by Europol to third States and third bodies.

  Europol 29—Draft rules concerning the external relations between Europol and third States and bodies not linked to the European Union.

  Europol 38—Rules concerning the receipt of information by Europol from third Parties.

  4.    These rules (the "Third Country Rules") seek to clarify the extent of Europol's external competence by establishing a regulatory framework for operational co-operation with third States and EU or non-EU bodies. The aim is to facilitate the exchange of personnel and of information, including personal data. The rules allow some flexibility to tailor the terms of a secondment or data protection requirements to the particular State or body with whom Europol wishes to communicate.

  5.    In February the Home Office provided the Committee with four sets of rules governing the relations of Europol with third States and third bodies. Of these, three, we were told, had already been agreed. The fourth (then Doc. 8033/5/97—Rules concerning the receipt of information by Europol from third States and third bodies—Europol 28) was sifted to Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions). The Chairman of the Select Committee took up with Home Office Ministers the question of the Government's failure to give the Committee the opportunity to scrutinise all four sets of Rules (p 2). The Minister said: "We took the view that these documents fell outside the criteria for deposit for scrutiny, as it seemed to us that they were not of major significance". We return to this question in Part 3 of this Report.

  6.    In order to assist the work of the Sub-Committee, the views of the Data Protection Registrar and of Justice were sought, initially only on Europol 28 (later to become Europol 38). Their evidence disclosed substantial points of concern relating to protection of personal data and the handling of information gained in violation of human rights. Reactions were sought from the Government and again from Justice. In view of the nature and importance of the issues raised in this correspondence the Committee decided at the end of April that notwithstanding the fact that by then all four sets of rules had already been "agreed" it would conduct a brief enquiry into the Third Country Rules.

  7.    The membership of Sub-Committee E is listed in Appendix 1. The witnesses are listed in Appendix 2. Appendix 3 sets out the text of the Third Country Rules (Europol 26, 27, 29 and 38). Appendix 4 contains the text of the Articles of the Europol Convention to which reference is made in this Report. Appendix 5 contains the Confidentiality Regulations and the Rules applicable to analysis files. The evidence, both written and oral, is printed with the Report. The Committee would like to thank all those who assisted in this enquiry.

1   Article 3 of the Convention, based on Article K.3 of the Treaty on European Union, on the establishment of a European Police Office (Europol). The Convention envisages the extension of Europol's remit to include terrorism within two years from the entry into force of the Convention. At the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 19 March 1998 the Council commissioned a study to assess the implications of an earlier extension of Europol's mandate. Back

2   The Convention enters into force on the first day following the expiry of a three-month period after notification by the last Member State to complete its ratification (Article 45). Back

3   The Committee has previously considered two sets of rules and submitted short Reports to the House for information. Europol: Confidentiality Regulations: 1st Report, Session 1997-98, HL Paper 9; Europol: Joint Supervisory Body: 13th Report, Session 1997-98, HL Paper 71. Back

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