Select Committee on European Union Twenty-Ninth Report


CHAPTER 6: RELATIONS WITH PARTNERS

Eurojust

176.  The Danish Protocol added to the Europol Convention a provision requiring Europol to "establish and maintain close cooperation with Eurojust, in so far as it is relevant for the performance of the tasks of Europol and for achieving its objectives, taking into account the need to avoid duplication of effort"—this despite the fact that common law countries have in the past shown a degree of nervousness about there being too close a relationship between evidence-gatherers and prosecutors. The Decision setting up Eurojust contains a provision in the same terms; and both require the two agencies to enter into a cooperation agreement.

BOX 9
Eurojust

Eurojust was established in 2002 to enhance the effectiveness of the competent judicial authorities of the Member States when dealing with the investigation and prosecution of serious cross-border and organised crime. Like Europol, it has its headquarters in The Hague. It aims to improve co-operation between those authorities in investigations and prosecutions, at strategic level, in individual cases, and looking at specific types of criminality. In particular Eurojust facilitates international mutual legal assistance and the implementation of extradition requests. The College of Eurojust is composed of a member nominated by each Member State. The members are senior and experienced prosecutors or judges.


177.  The President of Eurojust, Mr José Luis Lopes da Mota, described Europol as "our privileged partner," dealing with police cooperation while Eurojust deals with judicial cooperation. The aim, he said, was to have police cooperation and judicial cooperation working together from an early stage of investigations, to produce a common overall approach to criminal activity affecting two or more jurisdictions. (Q 200)

178.  We were told that in 2007 the agencies worked together very successfully in 27 cases. One of these dealt with a major child abuse network.[67]

BOX 10
Cooperation between Europol and Eurojust

Operation Koala began in 2006 when a child abuse video was discovered in Australia. It had been produced in Belgium, and the information from Australia was routed via Interpol to Belgium and Europol. The producer of the material, a 42-year-old Italian, was arrested. He was running a website on which he sold over 150 self-made, sexually explicit videos of underage girls. After his arrest the Italian authorities forwarded all the digitalised material, including customer details, to Europol. The material was analysed and disseminated to the countries in which customers were identified. Eurojust and Europol, working in close cooperation, invited representatives from 28 countries to several operational meetings in The Hague, resulting in simultaneous and coordinated actions in 19 countries in the EU and beyond. 2,500 customers in 19 countries were identified; thousands of computers, videos and photographs were seized, and more than a million files and pictures were found.



179.  As required by the instruments setting them up, the two organisations signed a cooperation agreement in 2004, and approved a memorandum of understanding to implement the agreement. The heads of the two organisations each stressed the importance they attached to good relations with the other body. Mr Lopes da Mota told us that Eurojust's relations with Europol were "developing in a very positive way". (Q 200) Mr Ratzel gave us more details. In addition to his periodical meetings with Mr Lopes da Mota, there were for example meetings of experts from the IT departments to establish a secure technical link between the two organisations, and meetings of Eurojust prosecutors and Europol analysts involved in crime analysis and in investigations. (Q 192)

180.  A secure communication link between the two organisations was established in 2007, but the extent to which sensitive data in analysis work files can be passed by Europol to Eurojust still causes problems. At the meeting of the Article 36 Committee in April the two organisations were invited to submit their views. Eurojust did so on 8 May 2008,[68] regretting that the Council had not inserted in the Europol Decision a provision to mirror Article 7(f) of the Eurojust Decision, which provides for Eurojust to assist Europol by providing it with opinions based on the analysis carried out by Europol. Currently the cooperation agreement requires Europol to supply analysis data and results to Eurojust only "as far as allowed under its legal framework and this Agreement," and even then only "when appropriate".

181.  Eurojust is frustrated by the limits on its access to AWFs, and would like to see the cooperation agreement amended to allow a freer flow of information. Professor de Kerchove, looking at the counter-terrorism aspect, thought that in that field it made sense that Eurojust should get access, if not to 100 per cent of the AWFs on Islamic terrorism, at least to the main findings, and that conversely Eurojust should feed information to the AWFs. (Q 354) SOCA also took the view that there was "an insufficient flow of information between the two organisations". (p 25)

182.  But the problems are mainly caused by the Member States. The Home Office told us that the Government "recognises certain practical difficulties about extending access to Europol's data systems, and especially some of the particularly sensitive material, such as contained in some of the Analytical [sic] Work Files … Europol relies on Member States for the supply of its base data, and given some concerns about how securely Europol will store and use that data, which already limits the amount of information exchange, an extension could result in the 'tap being turned down', rather than opened up, which is what we feel must happen."(p 3)

CO-LOCATION

183.  All of our many witnesses who addressed the issue agreed that close cooperation between Europol and Eurojust required geographical proximity. Ms Michèle Coninsx, the Vice-President of Eurojust, explained that in 2001 the Heads of State decided that Eurojust should be sent to The Hague to be able to cooperate with Europol, and so in 2002 they moved to The Hague. They were not however in the same part of the city, and this could not have been what the Heads of State had in mind "because we operate in exactly the same areas, covering exactly the same phenomena without any exception and our goals are exactly the same … to dismantle criminal networks, to stop organised crime and terrorism."(Q 206)

184.  Europol has outgrown its existing building, and is shortly to move to a new building on a new site. Everyone involved thought this an excellent opportunity for the organisations to be located, not just close to each other, but on the same site and in the same building. Mr Ratzel said: "… we advocated strongly that Eurojust and Europol should be co-located as closely as possible, if possible under one roof with separate areas of competence." (Q 192)

185.  The Ambassador of the Netherlands to the United Kingdom assured us that neither the Dutch Government nor the Municipality of The Hague at any stage opposed co-location; on the contrary, they agreed that co-location would be very beneficial.[69] Nevertheless this will not take place. The organisations will be in two separate buildings but at walking distance from each other. Mr Jacques Vos, the acting Administrative Director of Eurojust, explained: "The unfortunate thing is that the site chosen already for the Europol location was too limited in scope, with the additional expansion that would be required for the growth of both Eurojust and Europol over the next 10 to 15 years, to allow both organisations to cohabit in one facility. All our efforts are currently geared to cohabiting in the same area … Certain services like security services could have been combined, and so we really regret it and Eurojust expressed its dismay also that that option was not considered when it was decided for Eurojust to come to The Hague. It was a missed opportunity for all parties concerned."(Q 210)

186.  Professor de Kerchove said: "I have always thought that the two agencies should be in the same building. To me it is very unfortunate that that has not been decided."(Q 355) When we put this to Mr McNulty he replied: "I visited both [organisations] in The Hague and I do know and appreciate that co-location helps enormously in terms of the two working together in partnership."(Q 477)

187.  We believe that for Europol and Eurojust to be located and working together in the same building could have resulted in a partnership which was easier, more productive and above all more secure. We share the disappointment of our witnesses that this will not now take place.

Other EU agencies

188.  Europol has, and needs, particularly close relations with Eurojust, but it also needs to maintain good relations with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), Frontex, the European Police College (CEPOL), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).[70] Once the Decision is in force, Article 22 will require Europol to conclude agreements with these bodies which will set out the circumstances in which it can pass personal data and classified information to them.

189.  The most important of these organisations is Frontex. The two have worked together informally since 2006, and SOCA thought the early signs of cooperation between them were encouraging. (p 25) The Home Office explained that the delay in establishing a formal agreement had been caused by the need for Frontex to change its systems to meet the necessary data protection and data sharing compliance standards. However there was a good operational engagement, with Frontex providing valuable information concerning serious and organised criminality; this had allowed the two organisations to produce an assessment of the high-risk routes for illegal immigration through the Western Balkans. (p 2)

190.  Isabelle Pérignon, the Head of Sector for police cooperation at the Commission, told us that the heads of agencies in the JHA field, CEPOL, Eurojust, Europol and Frontex, had just held their third annual meeting to exchange best practice and ideas on how to improve relations among them; the Commission supported this initiative. (Q 244)

Interpol

191.  We have explained in paragraph 28 some of the similarities and differences between Europol and Interpol. The two bodies signed a Joint Initiative in 2001, and Interpol has a liaison officer permanently stationed at Europol, and an arrangement for participating in two AWFs. Mr Ratzel told us that the policy of the two bodies was to complement one another, so that the Member States would not be paying twice for the same services. (Q 192) This is important, since many of the services they offer are not dissimilar. However Interpol concentrates on the exchange of information in relation to crimes which have already taken place. It is not forward looking, and does not carry out analysis or threat assessments.

192.  SOCA regards Europol's cooperation levels with Interpol as "patchy", with some issues concerning shared responsibilities over the provision of certain police services still unresolved. (p 25)

Third countries

193.  Europol has two classes of agreements with third countries. In the first category are those countries where the Council has given its approval to the transfer to that country of classified information and personal data, because it is satisfied that the country has adequate arrangements for handling and protecting such data.[71] In this category there are organisational agreements with Australia, Canada, Croatia, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the United States. Australia, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland have liaison officers stationed at Europol, and there is one from each of the US Secret Service, the US Department of Justice (Drug Enforcement Administration), the US Postal Inspection Service, and the FBI.

194.  In the second category there are strategic agreements, which do not allow the transfer of data, with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Moldova, the Russian Federation and Turkey. Of these, only Colombia has liaison officers stationed at Europol, but this is a fruitful partnership.

BOX 11
Operation Euro Tree
[
72]

Europol successfully supported the Spanish and Colombian authorities and the US Secret Service in a joint police action against a Colombian criminal network producing and distributing counterfeit euros and US$ Dollars. In the final stage 10 house searches took place simultaneously in Bogotá. Specialists from Europol's forgery of money unit provided analytical and technical support to the investigators from the beginning of the operation. Nine persons were arrested and the following amounts of counterfeit currency were seized (face value):
  • 400,000 counterfeit euro (50 and 100 denomination)
  • 1 million counterfeit US$ (20 and 100 denomination)
  • 4.4 million counterfeit US$ in preparation
  • 550 million counterfeit Colombian Pesos
  • 63 million Venezuelan Bolivar (to be used as raw material)
  • 533 Colombian lottery tickets.

All technical equipment required for the production of the counterfeit notes was seized. This was the largest criminal organisation involved in the production and trafficking of counterfeit US$, euros, and Colombian pesos. During this eight month investigation the different techniques used by the counterfeiters were identified, as well as the routes used to distribute in Europe, the United States, Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Ecuador.


195.  In August this year there was another spectacular operation in Bogotá, when as a result of cooperation between Spain and Colombia, organised by Europol, counterfeit Euro notes to a record value of €11 million were seized. The equipment used to make the notes was also seized, and arrests made.[73]

196.  There was a divergence of views between the Home Office and SOCA on the value of these agreements. Mr Storr said: "As far as wider partnerships are concerned, we are fully behind Europol's efforts to establish working relationships with third countries outside the European Union, with European and other bodies involved in law enforcement. We think that partnership approach is very much the way to go."(Q 20)

197.  SOCA pointed out the limitations following from the data protection requirements. It did not challenge the need for these, but complained that "many of these agreements are restricted to 'strategic' matters only and have delivered little by way of tangible benefits. The experience suggests Europol should spend less time pursuing such external agreements and focus on delivering its goals within the EU."(p 25) In oral evidence Mr Wainwright told us that the amount of legal and political effort needed to get such strategic agreements signed was such that very often the dividend that followed was not great; "the cooperation agreements that Europol has with Russia, for example, and other countries is limited to the exchange of strategic information only, threat assessment papers and so on, which sometimes is helpful but has a natural limit in terms of how useful it can be."(Q 93)


67   Europol Annual Report for 2007, p 19. Back

68   Document 9086/08. Back

69   Letter of 5 August 2008 from the Netherlands Ambassador to the Chairman of Sub-Committee F, p 208. Back

70   The headquarters of these organisations are spread widely in the EU. While Eurojust, like Europol, is based in The Hague, OLAF is based in Brussels, Frontex in Warsaw, CEPOL in Bramshill, Hampshire, the ECB (with its interest in the counterfeiting of Euros) in Frankfurt, and EMCDDA in Lisbon. Back

71   We deal in Chapter 8 with the procedure for deciding on the adequacy of a data protection regime. Back

72   Europol Annual Report for 2007, p 25. Back

73   Europol press notice of 29 August 2008. Back


 
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