Europol, as the EU's law enforcement agency, helps member states fight terrorism and international crime. It is due to be given additional powers to help it to tackle terrorism better, under plans approved by MEPs on Wednesday 11 May. Find out more about Europol in our infographic.
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.
MEPs approved on 11 May new powers for Europol. These will 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 will also be able 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.
The regulation will enter into force on 1 May 2017.