European Police Office
1 July 1999 (commenced)
|Location||The Hague, Netherlands|
|Director||Rob Wainwright (UK)|
|Legal authority||Treaty on EU Title VI
Council Decision 2009/371/JHA
The establishment of Europol was agreed to in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, officially known as the Treaty on European Union (TEU) that came into effect in November 1993. The agency started limited operations on 3 January 1994, as the Europol Drugs Unit (EDU). In 1998 the Europol Convention was ratified by all the member states and came into force in October. Europol commenced its full activities on 1 July 1999.
Europol allocates its resources (800 staff, of these, approximately 145 Europol Liaison Officers (ELOs)) from its headquarters in The Hague. The size of Europol belies the fact that they are in constant liaison with hundreds of different law enforcement organisations, each with their own individual or group seconded to assist Europol's activities.
As of 2013, Europol covers all 28 member states of the European Union. In order to fight international organised crime effectively, Europol cooperates with a number of third countries and organisations as follows (in alphabetical order): Albania, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, CEPOL (European Police College), Colombia, Eurojust, European Central Bank, European Commission, European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Frontex, Iceland, Interpol, Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Norway, OLAF (European Anti-Fraud Office), Russian Federation, Serbia, Switzerland, EU INTCEN (formerly EU Joint Situation Centre), Turkey, Ukraine, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the USA, and the World Customs Organisation. The Europol External Strategy defines the framework within which Europol is to develop its activities with regard to third partners.
Europol was reformed as a full EU agency on 1 January 2010. This gave Europol increased powers to collect criminal information and European Parliament more control over Europol activities and budget.
Europol's aim is to improve the effectiveness and co-operation between the competent authorities of the member states primarily by sharing and pooling intelligence to prevent and combat serious international organized crime. Its mission is to make a significant contribution to the European Union's law enforcement efforts targeting organized crime.
Europol has no executive powers. It is a support service for the law enforcement agencies of the EU member states. This means that Europol officials are not entitled to conduct investigations in the member states or to arrest suspects. In providing support, Europol with its tools – information exchange, intelligence analysis, expertise and training – can contribute to the executive measures carried out by the relevant national authorities.
Europol is a multi-disciplinary agency, comprising not only regular police officers but staff members from the member states' various law enforcement agencies: customs, immigration services, border and financial police, etc. Secondly, Europol helps to overcome the language barriers in international police co-operation. Any law enforcement officer from a member state can address a request to their Europol National Unit (ENU) in her/his mother tongue and receive the answer back in this language.
Three different levels of co-operation are possible: The first one is technical co-operation or to provide training. The next step is strategic co-operation aimed at exchanging general trends in organised crime and how to fight it and the exchange of threat assessments. The top level of co-operation includes the exchange of personal data and requires the fulfilment of Europol's standards in the field of data protection and data security.
Europol has its origins in TREVI, a forum for internal security cooperation amongst EEC/EC interior and justice ministers created in 1975 and active until the Maastricht Treaty came into effect in 1993.
Germany, with its federal organisation of police forces, had long been in favour of a supranational police organisation at EC level. It tabled a surprise proposal to establish a European Police Office to the European Council meeting in Luxembourg in June 1991. By that December, the Intergovernmental Conference was coming to an end and the member states had pledged themselves to establishing Europol through Article K.1(9) of the Maastricht Treaty. Europol was given the modest role of establishing ‘a Union-wide system for exchanging information’ amongst EU police forces.
Delays in ratifying the Maastricht Treaty led to TREVI ministers agreeing a "Ministerial Agreement on the Europol Drugs Unit" in June 1993. This intergovernmental agreement, outside of EU law, led to the establishment of a small team headed by Jürgen Storbeck, a senior German police officer who initially operated from some temporary cabins in a Strasbourg suburb (shared with personnel of the Schengen Information System) while more permanent arrangements were made.
Once the Maastricht Treaty had come into effect, the slow process of negotiating and ratifying a Europol Convention began. In the meantime, the Europol Drugs Unit (EDU) had its powers extended twice, in March 1995 and again in December 1996 to included a range of trafficking offences in its remit. During this period, information amongst officers could only be exchanged bilaterally, with a central database to be established once the Europol Convention was ratified. The Europol Convention finally came into effect in October 1998 after ratification by all 15 EU national parliaments though some outstanding legal issues (primarily data protection supervision and judicial supervision) ensured it could not formally take up duties until July 1999.
The Europol Convention was superseded by the Council Decision of 6 April 2009 establishing the European Police Office (Europol), converting Europol into a formal EU agency as well as increasing some of its powers. The European Parliament was given more control over Europol by the Council Decision as well.
The Directorate of Europol is appointed by the Council of the European Union (Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs). It currently consists of Director Rob Wainwright (UK) and Deputy Directors Michel Quillé (France) and Eugenio Orlandi (Italy).
Europol is politically accountable to the Justice and Home Affairs Council via the Europol Management Board. The Council controls the appointment of Europol's Director and Deputy Directors. It also controls Europol's budget, financed from member state contributions, rather than the EU budget and any legislative instruments it deems necessary for Europol. The Europol Management Board is staffed with Interior Ministry officials with one representative from every participating member state. It meets at least twice per year and exercises political control over more routine staffing and budgetary matters, amongst other things. The Joint Supervisory Body oversees data protection in Europol and has two representatives from each participating state's data protection supervisory body.
Financial supervision over Europol is aided by a committee of auditors drawn from the membership of the European Court of Auditors and known as the Joint Audit Committee. The Joint Audit Committee is not technically part of the European Court of Auditors as the Europol budget is not part of the overall EU budget. This unusual arrangement preserves the intergovernmental character of Europol.
The European Court of Justice has minimal jurisdiction over Europol with its remit extending only to limited interpretation of the Europol Convention.
The European Ombudsman, while not given a formal role in the Europol Convention, seems to have gained de facto recognition as an arbitrator in Europol matters relating to requests for access to documents and Europol staff disputes.
Some operations that the agency has conducted are:
- Dismantling of a large international skimming network involving nine European Union Member States.
- Operation Trufas - Dismantling of a people smugglers network.
- Operation Greensea - Assisting to dismantle a human trafficking network.
- Dismantling of an organised criminal network which was operating in six countries.
- Dismantling of a credit card fraud network.
- Dismantling of an Armenian-Georgian criminal network (In collaboration with Interpol assisting the French Gendarmerie)
- Seizing of a 30 kilograms (70 lb) cocaine load from Colombia (In collaboration with the Belgian, Dutch and French authorities assisting the Spanish Guardia Civil)
- Dismantling of a Filipino people smuggling ring (In collaboration with Eurojust assisting the French authorities)
- Operation Fenix (In collaboration with the Police anti-drug units from the Czech NPC, the D.E.A. and Police forces of Bulgaria, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the U.K. and Uruguay assisting the Police of Czech Republic)
- Disruption of prolific payment card fraud network (In collaboration with Eurojust assisting the French Police)
- Dismantling of a Euro coins counterfeit criminal group (Supported and coordinated a joint investigation with the Hellenic and Bulgarian Police)
- Dismantling of two Euro counterfeit print shops in Colombia (In collaboration with the Brigada de Investigación Del Banco de España, the U.S. Secret Service assisting the Colombian National Police DIJIN)
- Seizing of over half million of fake Euros (Joint investigation team of Europol, Eurojust, the Bulgarian and Spanish authorities)
- Disruption of an illegal immigration network in France (In collaboration with the Dutch Royal Marechaussee, assisting the French authorities)
- Operation Salonica - Seizing nearly 1 tonne (2,200 lb) of cocaine and 160 kilograms (350 lb) of hashish (In collaboration with the Albanian, Austrian, Belgian, German, Italian, Macedonian and Serbian authorities assisting and coordinating the Spanish Civil Guard)
- Dismantling of two illegal Euro mint-shops (Assisting the Belgian authorities)
- Operation Night Clone - Dismantling of an International network of payment card fraudsters (In collaboration with the Bulgarian, Italian, Spanish, Polish and the U.S.A. authorities, coordinated by Europol)
- Dismantling of a Vietnamese illegal immigrant network (Assisting the French and German authorities)
- Operation Opson - Seizing tonnes of illicit food across Europe (In collaboration with Interpol coordinating the authorities from Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the Democratic Republic of Congo)
- Dismantling of a drug and euro counterfeiting network (In collaboration with the Spanish authorities)
- Operation Icarus - Dismantling of a criminal group operating illegal file-sharing online networks (Joint action of 26 European countries coordinated by Europol)
- Operation Fire - Dismantling of a synthetic drugs criminal network (Joint action of several European law enforcement agencies coordinated by Europol)
- Operation Atlantic (Joint action of several E.U. member states authorities and the F.B.I. coordinated by Europol)
- Operation Tribulus - Dismantling of a criminal network distributing fake medicines (Joint action of the Spanish Guardia Civil in Murcia, U.K. and Cypriot authorities, City of London Police, U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the Financial Intelligence Unit of Cyprus (FIU), Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) and the manufacturers Pfizer, Lilly and Sanofi -Aventis coordinated by Europol)
- Dismantling of an Organised Crime group, involved in smuggling illegal immigrants into the E.U. (Hungarian National Police in collaboration with Europol)
- Dismantling of a money counterfeiting network (Joint action of the Colombian authorities, the Spanish Police and the U.S. Secret Service supported by Europol)
- Operation In Our Sites - Seizing of 133 domain names that were illegally selling counterfeit merchandise online (Joint action of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) and Europol)
- Operation Marlo (In collaboration with the Spanish Guardia Civil and U.K. Border Agency)
- Project FIMATHU ( In collaboration with 10 E.U. and non-E.U. countries assisting the Austrian and Hungarian authorities)
- Dismantling of a Criminal Network of Payment Card fraudsters (Investigation initially conducted by the Bulgarian and Italian authorities, that was finalized by the coordination of Europol)
- Operation Opson ll - Global seizures of fake and illicit food (Joint operation of Interpol and Europol with the participation of the authorities of 29 E.U. and non-E.U. countries)
- Disrupting of a Mitsubishi Car Thieves Gang (Investigation conducted by the German, Spanish, Italian and Polish Police supported by Europol)
- Dismantling a Counterfeit Criminal Network confiscating four million counterfeit Euros and four million counterfeit U.S. Dollars (Investigation conducted by the Peruvian National Police, the Brigada de Investigación Del Banco de España, the US Secret Service and Europol)
- Dismantling of an Organized Crime Group producing fake cosmetics, shampoo and washing powder destined for the European market (Investigation conducted by the Polish Police, supported by Europol)
- Dismantling of an Organised Crime Group responsible for massive VAT fraud (Investigation conducted by the Hungarian Police, in collaboration with Czech and Slovak investigators supported by Europol)
- Dismantling of a major People Smuggling Criminal Network operating across Europe (Investigation conducted by the Croatian, Czech, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Polish, Slovak, Turkish, Swiss, Austrian and Kosovo Authorities, involving over 1200 officers, supported by Europol)
- Operation Veto - Uncovering an International Network involved in football match-fixing (Joint Investigation Team led by Europol, the German, Slovenian, Finish, Austrian and Hungarian authorities, supported by Eurojust, Interpol and investigators from eight other European countries)
After a long-standing request by private companies and a number of governmental organisations suffering large losses from card frauds, Europol was chosen to be the law enforcement agency in charge of protecting consumers using credit cards for purchases.
- Committed by organised groups to generate large criminal profits such as online fraud
- Causing serious harm to the victim such as online child sexual exploitation
- Affecting critical infrastructure and information systems in the E.U.
- Area of freedom, security and justice
- Visa Information System
- Military of the European Union
- European Defence Agency
- European Gendarmerie Force
- "A Stronger Europol". Europol. 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-06.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Europol.|
- Official Website of Europol
- Official Channel of Europol on YouTube
- Final Design for new Europol Headquarters The Hague
- Europol convention (main legal instrument until 2010)
- Council Decision of 6 April 2009 establishing the European Police Office (Europol) (governing council decision)