Europol: Council agrees negotiating mandate on new rules to strengthen the role of the agency

EU ambassadors today agreed a negotiating mandate on a draft regulation amending the Europol regulation as regards its cooperation with private parties, its processing of personal data in support of criminal investigations and its role on research and innovation.

Brussels, June 30, 2021.- «Criminals constantly adapt the way they function, and if we want to fight them successfully so must we. In a context of increasingly cross-border and digital crime, Europol has a growing role to play in supporting member states and driving innovation in law enforcement. These draft new rules will provide it with the necessary tools to achieve this.»
Eduardo Cabrita, Portuguese minister of the interior

Criminals and terrorists are exploiting the advantages brought by the digital transformation and have quickly seized the opportunity during the COVID-19 crisis to adapt their modes of operation or develop new criminal activities. These threats spread across borders, with criminal groups that engage in a wide range of criminal activities. The draft regulation will allow Europol to better support member states in their fight against new threats and modus operandi.

Cooperation with private parties
As a result of the increased use of online services by criminals, private parties hold a growing amount of personal data that may be relevant for criminal investigations. Given the borderless nature of the internet, these services can often be provided from anywhere in the world. Under the draft rules, Europol will be able to receive personal data directly from private parties, to ensure a point of contact at EU level to lawfully share multi-jurisdictional data sets. Europol will then be able to analyse these datasets in order to identify the relevant member states and forward the information to the national authorities.

Processing of large datasets
Data collected in criminal investigations have been increasing in size and complexity. Member states, through their own analysis of the data cannot always detect cross-border links. Under the draft rules, Europol will be able to process large and complex datasets to support member states in their fight against serious crime and terrorism. The regulation also includes strict requirements to ensure that any data processing by Europol always takes place in respect of fundamental rights, including the right to privacy, aligning this regulation with the EU data protection one.

Research and innovation
Given the challenges that the use of new technologies by criminals pose to the EU’s security, law enforcement authorities need to strengthen their technological capacities. To achieve this, the draft rules task Europol with supporting member states in the use of emerging technologies. Europol should also work to explore new approaches and develop common technological solutions, including those based on artificial intelligence, always subject to robust security and fundamental rights safeguards.

Cooperation with third countries
Compared to the initial Commission proposal, the member states wished to extend options for Europol’s cooperation with key third countries. They introduced the possibility to exchange personal data with countries where appropriate safeguards have been provided for in a legally binding instrument or exist according to Europol’s self assessment.

Cooperation with the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO)
Europol should work closely with the EPPO and support the investigations of the EPPO, upon its request. Europol should also report to the EPPO without delay any criminal conduct which falls under its competence. To enhance the operational cooperation between the two bodies, the draft regulation also sets down the rules for access to Europol’s data by the EPPO.

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