Crime and terrorism doesn't stop at the borders so the European Police office - better known as Europol - helps EU countries to fight these international menaces. However, as threats evolve, so should Europol. National governments have now agreed to upgrade the agency's counter-terrorism capabilities. The civil liberties committee votes on Europol’s new powers on Monday 30 November. Read on to find out more about what Europol does.
As the EU’s law enforcement agency, Europol aims to strengthen and improve cooperation on serious international crime between EU countries. It also works closely with other countries such as the US, Canada, Australia and Norway.
Europol focuses on fighting a wide range of illegal activites, from drug smuggling to illicit immigration networks, people trafficking, child pornography, international vehicle theft, cybercrime, money laundering and euro counterfeiting.
Set up in the 1990s, Europol became a full EU agency in 2010. It has more than 900 staff members at its headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands. Its current director is Rob Wainwright from the UK.
Cooperation and expertise
Some of Europol's staff come from EU countries' law enforcement agencies, including regular police, border police, customs and security services. Europol officers have no direct powers of arrest nor are they entitled to carry out investigations in EU countries.
The agency assists national authorities by exchanging information, providing intelligence analyses and threat assessments, as well as expertise and training. EU countries rely on this support to carry out more than 18,000 international investigations every year. Europol also boasts state-of-the-art databases and communication channels, offering fast and secure capabilities for storing, searching, visualising and linking information.
This summer it was announced that a cyber-police team from all over Europe, coordinated by Europol, would be tasked with tracking down and dismantling the Islamic State's social media presence, which has been blamed for helping to fuel radicalisation and recruitment in Europe and elsewhere.