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German delegation wants a wider sphere of competence for Europol

Making Europe safer is the declared aim of Europol, the law-enforcement agency of the European Union. Based in The Hague in the Netherlands, Europol assists the 27 member states of the EU in combating serious forms of international crime and terrorism. To this end, it also cooperates with numerous partner countries outside the EU and with international organisations.

Since the entry into force of the Europol Regulation in 2017, political scrutiny of Europol activities has been the task of the Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group (JPSG), which comprises members of national parliaments and of the European Parliament. The JPSG meets twice a year – in the country holding the Presidency of the Council in the first half of the year and in the European Parliament in Brussels in the second half.

Proceedings can be watched live at www.parleu2020.de

During the coronavirus crisis, however, it has clearly not been so easy for groups to convene, and so the JPSG meeting on Monday and Tuesday, 28 and 29 September, will be held in what has become the all-too-familiar format of a video conference, which will be streamed live at www.parleu2020.de. The meeting will be hosted by the co-chairs of the Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group – Juan Fernandes Lopez Aguilar, chair of the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, Susanne Mittag (SPD), Member of the Bundestag and head of the Bundestag delegation to the JPSG, and Boris Pistorius, Minister of the Interior of Lower Saxony and head of the Bundesrat delegation.

Susanne Mittag: only a common European security architecture can provide the right answers

In Ms Mittag’s view, the latest crime trends during the coronavirus crisis – the widespread frauds involving personal protective equipment as well as the general increase in cybercrime – have made it clear “how important it is to combat cross-border crime”. Europe must make even greater efforts to tackle these crimes as well as human trafficking, child pornography, money laundering, terrorism and extremism, says the SPD Bundestag Member ahead of the meeting, adding that “Only a functioning common European security architecture can provide the right answers”.

In the recent past, says Ms Mittag, Europol has considerably extended its analysis of data and intelligence and its provision of assistance to member states. “At this meeting we intend to use our Presidency to generate momentum for the consolidation and further development of these gains”, she announces.

Boris Pistorius calls for a European police service – “a kind of European FBI”

Co-chair Boris Pistorius has made it clear where the journey should lead. “We need our own European police service,” he says, “a kind of European FBI”. The Interior Minister of Lower Saxony wants Europol to be a joined-up, strong and effective European police force. “It must provide even better support for the member states’ law-enforcement bodies and coordinate the fight against international crime. In the medium term, it should also be given its own executive powers, says Mr Pistorius, who represents the SPD in the Land Parliament of Lower Saxony. In view of the changing situation in the EU in the wake of Brexit, he says, there is a need to turn away from the pursuit of separate national strategies.

Hopes for fruitful police cooperation with the UK even after Brexit

On the subject of Brexit, Susanne Mittag calls for action to ensure that Europol is able to cooperate directly in future with private parties as well as with third countries so that threats such as terrorism and the increase in right-wing extremism and organised crime can be successfully combated. To this end, Britain’s contributions, particularly in the realm of data collection and analysis, are “very important”, she says. She therefore hopes “that we can continue our fruitful police cooperation after Brexit, albeit on a different legal basis, which still has to be established as a matter of urgency”.

Contributions from Catherine de Bolle, Executive Director of Europol, and Wojciech Wiewiórowski, European Data Protection Supervisor, on Monday

On the agenda for Monday’s session of the JPSG meeting is a discussion, beginning at 2.30 p.m., on the activities of Europol from March to September 2020 with a special focus on the COVID-19 crisis. A presentation by the Executive Director of Europol, Catherine de Bolle, as well as the report from the European Data Protection Supervisor, Wojciech Wiewiórowski, will form the basis for this discussion. Thereafter, at 3.30 p.m., a discussion will begin on the draft Europol multiannual programming document for 2021 to 2023, followed at 5 p.m. by a debate on the fight against violent right-wing extremism and right-wing terrorism.

Tuesday: Keynote speech by Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer

On Tuesday, starting at 10 a.m., Horst Seehofer, Germany’s Minister of the Interior, and Ylva Johansson, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, will deliver keynote speeches on the future role of Europol and the challenges posed by Brexit. These will be followed by closing remarks from the three co-chairs. (hau/23 September 2020)

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