With Europol’s stronger mandate, a stronger oversight is coming

The European Union has recently adopted a new amended Europol Regulation. Europol is the law enforcement agency of the European Union. Its main objective is to contribute to the strengthening of security in Europe for the benefit of all EU citizens. These efforts become particularly relevant, in light of the growth of criminal and terrorist organizations, which pose a significant threat to the EU’s internal security.

With its platforms, databases and analytical services, Europol connects law enforcement authorities throughout the EU and beyond to tackle serious and organised crime and terrorism. Recently, new intelligence analysis on the organised crime landscape has shown that crime is more fluid and flexible than previously thought and that the use of violence is increasing, along with the use of corruption and the abuse of legitimate business structures. Therefore, drastic action and significant measures in the various sectors, in order to minimize this issue are deemed necessary.

On 28 June 2022, the main amendments to the aforementioned Europol Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/794) entered into force, introducing a significant number of changes to this legal act. Following the European Commission’s proposal, the European Parliament and the Council agreed to strengthen Europol’s capacity to provide better support to EU Member States in the fight against serious and organised crime and terrorism.

The amendments to this Europol Regulation bring about, in particular, changes in the areas of Support for Criminal Investigation, Research and Innovation, in the area of cooperation with private parties the Schengen Information System (SIS), Own-Initiative Investigations, the Fundamental Rights Officer (FRO) and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS).

In addition, in accordance with Article 88 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Europol’s activities are always reviewed and controlled. Consequently, any regulatory amendments will be subject to strong safeguards regarding the protection of fundamental rights, including the right to privacy. To this end, the amendments to the Europol Regulation will introduce an independent Fundamental Rights Officer (FRO), in addition to the independent Data Protection Officer (DPO) already existing in Europol.

At the same time, the amendment of this Regulation will also strengthen the Joint Parliamentary Security Group, which politically monitors Europol’s activities in the execution of this mandate.

The impact of serious and organised crime on the daily lives of European citizens, on the economies of Member States and on the resilience of State institutions is enormous. Therefore, I believe that this kind of amended Regulation will significantly improve the effectiveness of Europol’s support to the law enforcement authorities of the European Union in the fight against serious organised crime and terrorism.

For more information please speak with Antonis Glykis, Filippos Neocleous or your usual contact at Elias Neocleous & Co LLC.