Letter from Vernon Coaker MP, Parliamentary
Under-Secretary of State, Home Office to the Chairman
I am writing to inform you of the discussions
conducted during the Austrian Presidency of the EU on the future
These discussions were launched at the Informal
Meeting of the Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs in January,
and continued by means of a senior officials conference, held
in Vienna in February, and a Friends of the Presidency group consisting
of experts from Member States, the Commission and Europol, which
met in March and April.
In light of these discussions the Presidency
has prepared an Options paper which I enclose for your information.
The Options paper was presented to the meeting of the Justice
and Home Affairs Council on 1 and 2 June. The paper reflects the
full range of views expressed by the experts, notwithstanding
that they are to an extent conflicting. It is structured around
six clusters, each including a number of problem themes, concrete
options and implementation measures. The clusters are: the future
role of Europol; Europol's support to operational work; partnership
issues; corporate governance and oversight; Europol awareness;
and institutional issues.
The Options paper will be useful in informing
future discussions on Europol's development, but I would emphasise
that it does not bind Member States nor does it amount to a blueprint
for Europol's future development. There is not yet a consensus
on which reforms are necessary or desirable. Further consideration
will be required before decisions are taken as to which options
In light of this work Council Conclusions have
been agreed. A copy of the Council Conclusions is also enclosed.
Due to the timing of recess and the Council, I thought a letter
after the Council would allow for a more informed statement. The
Council Conclusions call for:
Member States to complete the ratification
of the three Protocols amending the Europol Convention: The Conclusions
urge Member States to complete this task by 31 December 2006.
The protocols will strengthen and improve the effectiveness of
Europol. The UK has already completed the ratification process
for all three protocols but this is a useful reminder to those
Member States who have not.
Preparation of the implementation
measures for the entry into force.of the three Protocols amending
the Europol Convention. Once ratified by all Member States, measures
will need to be taken to implement the Protocols. I welcome steps
taken now to prepare for these measures; this will ensure that
the benefits from the Protocols can be derived at the earliest
Consideration to the implementation
of the options identified in the Presidency's Options paper: I
welcome the commitment to further consider reforms to improve
the functioning of Europol. The Options paper has indicated a
wealth of ideas for possible reforms. However, there is not yet
a consensus on which reforms to progress and when. The Council
Conclusions sensibly reflect the need for further consideration
before final decisions are taken. The identification of potential
"quick wins", reforms that do not require legislative
change, is a useful development.
Consideration to the creation of
a more flexible legal instrument (replacing the Europol Convention
with a Council Decision): Experience of amending the Convention
by protocol has proved a time-consuming business. A more flexible
legal framework is therefore desirable. One option would be to
replace the Convention with a similar text but in the form of
a Council Decision. The Council Conclusions reflect a wish to
consider whether and how to progress this possibility.
Exploration of a method to abrogate
(repeal) the Europol Convention: There is no agreement yet as
to how, technically, the Convention can be abrogated (repealed)
were it to be replaced. The Council Conclusions reflect the possible
need to consider this issue.
It is important that Europol is not constrained
by over-rigid arrangements and practices from playing its full
part in supporting Member States in preventing and combating organised
crime. I believe the Austrian Presidency has made a valuable contribution
in initiating discussions on this important issue. The Conclusions
rightly recognise the need for further work and will ensure that
the productive discussions conducted during the Austrian Presidency
are taken forward by future Presidencies.
Overall I strongly believe that Europol should
continue to perform a support function to Member States' own law
enforcement operations. We certainly would not wish to see Europol
being given intrusive or coercive powers such as the powers of
arrest or seizure. Europol's added value continues to lie in its
ability to support Member States' own operations by facilitating
the exchange of criminal intelligence and by providing high quality
analysis of this criminal intelligence. We need to ensure that
Europol can effectively undertake these roles. The focus of reforms
should be on options that can add value quickly and which will
enable Europol to achieve its full potential within its existing
I hope that you will find this letter helpful.
I shall keep you closely informed as these discussions develop.
15 June 2006