Europol: The EU law enforcement cooperation agency

19-09-2019

Evolving from informal police cooperation in the 1970s to a fully fledged European Union (EU) agency with a strengthened mandate under its new legal basis (Regulation (EU) 2016/794), Europol's mandate is to strengthen EU Member States' competent authorities and ensure their cooperation for the purpose of 'preventing and combating serious crime affecting two or more Member States, terrorism and forms of crime which affect a common interest covered by a Union policy'. The agency is therefore empowered to tackle more than 30 forms of serious crime and related criminal offences, including terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, human trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation, trafficking in arms and ammunition. To fulfil its objectives, Europol carries out a series of tasks, including the core activities of performing as the EU criminal information exchange hub and providing operational support and expertise to Member States' criminal investigations. To frame Europol's activities, the Europol Regulation strengthens its data management and data protection rules and provides for enhanced scrutiny: political scrutiny – by a new parliamentary oversight body made up of representatives of the European Parliament and Member States' national parliaments; and scrutiny of its data processing operations – by the European Data Protection Supervisor. Furthermore, the Regulation reforms the framework for Europol's cooperation with partners such as third countries and international organisations, which also allows for an increased role for the Commission and the European Parliament. On the occasion of Europol's 20th anniversary, this briefing provides a timeline of the agency's establishment and consolidation; an overview of its competences, structure and functioning under the current legal framework; as well as some elements related to further developments.

Evolving from informal police cooperation in the 1970s to a fully fledged European Union (EU) agency with a strengthened mandate under its new legal basis (Regulation (EU) 2016/794), Europol's mandate is to strengthen EU Member States' competent authorities and ensure their cooperation for the purpose of 'preventing and combating serious crime affecting two or more Member States, terrorism and forms of crime which affect a common interest covered by a Union policy'. The agency is therefore empowered to tackle more than 30 forms of serious crime and related criminal offences, including terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, human trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation, trafficking in arms and ammunition. To fulfil its objectives, Europol carries out a series of tasks, including the core activities of performing as the EU criminal information exchange hub and providing operational support and expertise to Member States' criminal investigations. To frame Europol's activities, the Europol Regulation strengthens its data management and data protection rules and provides for enhanced scrutiny: political scrutiny – by a new parliamentary oversight body made up of representatives of the European Parliament and Member States' national parliaments; and scrutiny of its data processing operations – by the European Data Protection Supervisor. Furthermore, the Regulation reforms the framework for Europol's cooperation with partners such as third countries and international organisations, which also allows for an increased role for the Commission and the European Parliament. On the occasion of Europol's 20th anniversary, this briefing provides a timeline of the agency's establishment and consolidation; an overview of its competences, structure and functioning under the current legal framework; as well as some elements related to further developments.