Select Committee on European Union Tenth Report

CHAPTER 7: Police Co-operation and the role of Europol

35.  The Hague Programme places great emphasis on enhancing the effectiveness of police action in the EU. It calls on Member States to improve the exchange of information between police authorities on the basis of the principle of "availability" and contains proposals to enhance the interoperability of databases. Placing strong emphasis on counter-terrorism, the Programme calls for greater inter-agency co-operation and co-ordination between competent authorities. It also calls on Member States to co-operate with Europol, which will develop "threat assessments" on serious forms of organised crime. Addressing the increased flow of information that these proposals are likely to generate, the European Council asked the Commission to present proposals by the end of 2005 outlining the key conditions for data exchange. Some references are made to safeguards, but there are no detailed plans for data protection supervision and data exchange controls.

36.  The law enforcement authorities which submitted evidence to us unanimously welcomed the provisions of the Hague Programme on police co-operation, and in particular the emphasis on inter-agency co-operation and intelligence-led policing via the development of threat assessments.[67] The National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) noted that, following lobbying by the United Kingdom, the Hague Programme had adopted principles of intelligence-led policing and that the wording of the Programme provided an "extremely helpful boost" to attempts by NCIS to develop a European Criminal Intelligence Model based on the UNITED KINGDOM national intelligence model.[68] On the other hand, NGOs such as JUSTICE and the Law Society stressed the need for an effective data protection regime.[69] The Government also appeared to see some value in strengthening data protection, but as a means of enhancing trust between national police authorities and thus facilitating the exchange of data.[70]

37.  We have examined these issues in detail in our recent Report on EU counter-terrorism activities.[71] Here we reiterate that it is important to improve co-ordination between Member States, and with international bodies such as Interpol, without necessarily creating yet more structures in the EU. We believe that Europol has an important role to play but is still underused by Member States.[72] Before attempting to redefine its role, it is essential to convince Member States of the need to co-operate with Europol fully. Any proposals to enhance the exchange of information must be accompanied by high standards of data protection. As we noted in our Report, there is a clear need for specific EU data protection standards for the Third Pillar.[73] The Commission is planning to produce a proposal to that effect later this year, and we expect to examine it fully.

67   p 25 (ACPOS); p 27 (Europol); p 50 (NCIS). Back

68   p 50. Back

69   p 48 (JUSTICE); p 48 (Law Society). Back

70   Q 23. Back

71   After Madrid: the EU's response to terrorism, 5th Report, Session 2004-05, HL Paper 53. Back

72   See our Report Europol's role in fighting crime, 5th Report, Session 2002-03, HL Paper 43. Back

73   We have also expressed concern about the absence of specific data protection provisions in the draft Council Decision on the exchange of information and co-operation concerning terrorist offences currently under consideration in the Council (the most recent text is contained in document no. 15999/04). Back

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