The European Parliament has adopted new regulations for Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency. In a vote in Strasbourg, MEPs updated Europol's powers to fight terrorism, cyber-crime and other serious and organised forms of crime. MEPs say they have ensured that Europol's new powers will go hand in hand with increased data protection safeguards, democratic control and parliamentary scrutiny. The regulation will enter into force on 1 May 2017.
Europol director Rob Wainwright issued a statement saying: "Europol welcomes the final adoption of the new regulation by the European Parliament, .... The new powers will improve Europol's ability to support EU Member States in the fight against terrorism and organised crime at a time when Europe faces many challenging security threats.”
It will now be easier for Europol to set up specialised units to respond immediately to emerging terrorist threats and other forms of serious and organised crime. It also includes clear rules for existing units or centres such as the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) and the European Union Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU), both hosted at Europol. Europol's mandate to ensure that it is fully equipped to counter the increase in cross-border crimes and terrorist threats has been strengthened and new powers granted to improve Europol's ability to act as the EU's information hub in the fight against terrorism and serious organised crime.
In some cases Europol will now be able to exchange information directly with private entities, such as firms or NGOs, so as to work faster. For example, Europol's Internet Referral Unit could contact a social network provider such as Facebook directly to ask that a web page run by ISIS be deleted, thus halting the spread of terrorist propaganda faster.
The new rules make it the duty of EU member states to provide Europol with the data it needs to fight organised crime and terrorism. To encourage information sharing, Europol is to report annually to the European Parliament, the Council, Commission and national parliaments on the information provided by individual member states.
The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) will monitor Europol's work and there will be a clear complaints procedure for citizens under EU law. Europol's work will also be overseen by a Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group, with members from both national parliaments and the European Parliament.
"The new rules for Europol are a powerful legislative tool that will help to enhance security for European citizens", said Parliament's lead MEP Agustín Díaz de Mera (EPP, ES), in a debate ahead of the vote.