PART 5: SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS |
62. We welcome the abandonment of the proposal to define Europol's
remit solely by reference to "serious international crime"
and reversion to a definition close to that currently in the Convention.
If further clarification is required, there would be advantage
in including a reference to the UN Convention to help interpret
"organised crime"; and it would be desirable to clarify
the meaning of "suspicion" in the new text (paragraph
63. The definition of the remit is less important in its own
right than as a means of ensuring that Europol's tasks are clearly
defined so that:
· there is a shared understanding
throughout law enforcement agencies across the Member States of
what Europol is responsible for; and
· Europol does not engage
in matters that do not require its involvement.
It is also essential, as the Minister acknowledged, that there
should be effective prioritisation of Europol's tasks to avoid
it becoming over-burdened. The Europol Management Board
has a key role in identifying Europol's priorities and measuring
performance against them. The draft Decision calls on the Council,
on a proposal from the Management Board, to prioritise action
in relation to specific forms of crime (Article 2(1)). It will
be important that good use is made of this provision. (paragraph
64. We support the Government's view that the Europol national
units should remain the sole liaison bodies between Europol and
national authorities and that provision should not be made, as
the draft Decision proposes, for Europol to communicate directly
with "other competent authorities" (paragraph 22).
65. The safeguards sought by the Government would all be desirable,
but in our view it would be preferable to retain the existing
system of communication with Europol exclusively through the national
units (paragraph 24).
66. We cannot support the case for extending access to the
Europol Information System more widely. The current exclusive
right of interrogation by central national units provides the
best guarantee of effective data protection (paragraph 26).
67. The Committee urges all the parties concerned to ensure
that Europol and OLAF co-operate in protecting the EU from the
effects of counterfeiting the euro and that the best possible
use is made of the resources of both organisations (paragraph
68. Europol has a crucial role to perform in combating serious
organised crime, but it is at present essentially a role supporting
national law enforcement authorities. If, as some have advocated,
a fully operational role were proposed for Europol, this would
be a very significant change, for which there should be a different
legal basis, which could then be the subject of a major debate
across the EU. It is important that Europol should not develop
a major operational role simply as a result of a succession of
relatively small changes to its remit (paragraph 31).
69. We recommend that the Government press for the idea of
a joint committee of Members of national parliaments and the European
Parliament to be re-instated (paragraph 40).
70. There are telling practical reasons for resisting the
proposal for Community funding of some of Europol's activities,
which would also be inconsistent with its status as a Third Pillar
body. The Government should resist future attempts to change the
basis of Europol's funding (paragraph 44).
71. The Committee hopes that the Joint Supervisory Body will
continue to be closely involved with the preparation of agreements
between Europol and third countries involving the transmission
of personal data and urges it to adopt a robust approach to the
protection of personal data in them (paragraph 53).
72. The Committee urges the Government to ensure that any
amendment to Article 18 of the Convention provides sufficient
guarantees that any agreement on the transmission of personal
data from Europol to a third country will be preceded by an individual
assessment of data protection law and practice in the country
concerned (paragraph 54).
73. The Committee urges the Government to ensure that
any agreements with third countries fully reflect the final authorisation
power of the Member State concerned, which should also extend
to the choice of the authorities in the countries to which personal
data is transmitted (paragraph 55).
74. The Committee recommends that there should be a much clearer
specification of what other data it is intended to process and
for what type of background information, and more explicit assurance
that the processing of any personal data would be subject to adequate
data protection safeguards (paragraph 58).
75. Unless compelling evidence is produced that the current
time-limit on the storage of personal data gives rise to real
practical difficulties, we recommend that it should not be increased
76. The Committee regards it as important that a careful case-by-case
assessment should be made of any requests for access to documents
and that citizens should be clearly informed about the outcome
of their requests (paragraph 61).
77. The proposal by the Danish Presidency to amend the Europol
Convention raises important questions of policy and principle,
to which the attention of the House should be drawn, and the Committee
therefore recommends this report for debate.