Broad agreement at the Europol conference: Europe’s security must not suffer as a result of Brexit
The possibility of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit is a source of concern to politicians in the security field on both sides of the English Channel. This became clear during Part II of the seventh meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Security Group (JPSG) on Europol, held on Tuesday, 29 September 2020. Susanne Mittag (SPD), a Member of the Bundestag and Co-Chair of the JPSG, reminded delegates that cooperation with the United Kingdom in matters of internal security had been very close. When the transitional period ended on 31 December 2020, she said, the Europol Regulation would no longer apply in Britain. “This means that data exchanges will no longer be possible from the start of January unless a replacement solution is found at the current negotiations”, she stressed.
Horst Seehofer: Exchanges of police information must remain possible
This problem also worried Horst Seehofer (CSU). “Brexit has massive implications for police cooperation in Europe”, said the Federal Minister of the Interior, who was a guest speaker at the conference. It would be vital to compensate for the loss of information resulting from Brexit, he said. “It is important to us that British criminals should not suddenly be able to go underground or commit new crimes in the EU or German criminals do likewise in the UK”, said the Minister, who was counting on a deal being struck between the European Commission and the United Kingdom “which provides for close ties between Britain and Europol”. Exchanges of police information must remain possible, he urged.
The European Commission is prepared for a no-deal scenario too
Ylva Johansson, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, was optimistic that the negotiations, which were now in a crucial phase, could deliver a partnership for sharing information and fighting crime. If they did not succeed, contingency measures would take effect, for which the Commission had issued practical guidance. “We are fully prepared”, Ms Johansson emphasised.
Member of the House of Commons calls for security arrangements
Yvette Cooper, chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, who was a guest at the session, said that her committee, for all its members’ diverse views on a trade agreement or on Brexit, was in agreement that “the UK should be continuing to seek close cooperation with the EU on security and fighting crime”. Britain’s relationship with Europol would be crucial to that. Even if no trade deal were to be concluded, security arrangements must nevertheless be introduced in January, said Ms Cooper.
From among the representatives of national parliaments and Members of the European Parliament calls were also made during the discussion for continuation of cooperation in security matters between the EU and the UK. Boris Pistorius (SPD), Minister for Internal Affairs and Sport of Lower Saxony and Co-cCair of the JPSG, therefore observed in his summing-up following the discussion that there was great interest in continued cooperation. Europe’s security, he stressed, must not suffer as a result of Brexit.
Susanne Mittag: Europol needs adequate financial and human resources
The JPSG also addressed the forthcoming reform of the Europol Regulation. The Group “eagerly” awaited the relevant proposals from the European Commissioner for Home Affairs that had been announced for the end of the year, said Susanne Mittag. It was clear to her that, in view of the increasing demands made of it, Europol “needs to be equipped with adequate financial and human resources”. She pointed out, however, that the agreement reached by the European Council in July 2020 actually provided for a reduction of the Europol budget.
The German Co-Chair had Horst Seehofer’s support on this issue. “We need a significant increase in Europol’s resources to ensure that it can perform its increasingly important work”, was the German Interior Minister’s emphatic view. He, too, eagerly awaited the proposals from the European Commission for the amendment of the Europol Regulation. In his view, it should include adapting the scope for telecommunications surveillance to the latest technological developments. There was also a need for improved cooperation with private Internet service providers so that action could be taken against hate crimes and other Web-related forms of crime.
European Commissioner Ylva Johansson announces a “balanced proposal”
European Commissioner Ylva Jahansson announced that a ”balanced proposal” would be presented by December. She pointed out that the analysis of big data was the basis for successful investigations. She made it clear that she would address the concerns expressed by the European Data Protection Supervisor, Wojciech Wiewiórowski. It was also clear, she said, that she would not put forward any proposal that did not respect fundamental rights. For Ms Johansson, however, there was “not a contradiction between effective law enforcement and respect for fundamental rights”.
Horst Seehofer: More powers – more scrutiny
The German Interior Minister addressed demands from the Members of Parliament for more rights of parliamentary scrutiny. More powers for the security authorities, said Mr Seehofer, must be accompanied by a reinforcement of parliaments’ powers of scrutiny. (hau/29 September 2020)
The summary report on the video conference of the Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group on Europol on 28.09.2020 can be found here.
Videos relating to the Europol video conference on 28 and 29 September 2020