Tackling terrorism and international crime will become easier thanks to new powers being granted to the EU’s law enforcement agency. MEPs approved on 11 May new governance rules for Europol, allowing it to step up its efforts and react faster to new threats. The regulation will enter into force on 1 May 2017.
“The new rules for Europol are a powerful legislative tool that will help to enhance security for European citizens,” said Agustín Díaz de Mera, the MEP responsible for steering the new plans through the European Parliament.
Europol is the EU’s law enforcement agency, assisting national authorities by exchanging information, intelligence analyses and threats assessments. It was launched in 1999 and became an EU agency in 2010.
The agency deals with terrorism and international crime such as cybercrime, drug smuggling and people trafficking and carries out more than 18,000 international investigations a year. However, it does not have any powers to arrest suspects or carry out investigations in member states.
Europol, which boasts 900 staff members, has its headquarters in The Hague in the Netherlands.
The new powers approved by MEPs on 11 May allow the agency to set up specialised units more easily so that it can respond faster to emerging threats. They also set clear rules for centres, such as the European Counter Terrorism Centre that started on 1 January 2016. In some cases Europol is also allowed to exchange information with private companies. For example, Europol would be able to ask Facebook to remove pages run by Islamic State.
These new powers will be accompanied by strong data protection safeguards and democratic oversight rules.
Briefing on Europol’s new powers: