European Commission
Extension of EU police biometric data-sharing network under latest version of Prüm II decisions

According to a leaked document containing the latest changes to the Prüm proposal circulated in the Council on 3 May, EU police agencies would be allowed to access photos of driving licence holders held by other member states, despite the controversy over the legality of this practice. According to the new proposal, the searching and exchange of driving licence data would be done via EUCARIS, the European Car and Driving Licence Information System, and the UK will have the possibility to join the upgraded Prüm system. Furthermore, the new proposal contains a number of new recitals defining Europol’s position in the revised Prüm network. In addition, searches undertaken by Europol with biometric data acquired from third countries will now be subject to two conditions: the data will have to be cross-checked with data kept by Europol and the agency will also have to transmit the name of the third country that provided the data. (link)

MEPs endorse strengthened mandate of Europol

On 4 May, Members of the European Parliament endorsed the deal reached in February by Parliament and Council on strengthening the mandate of Europol, by 480 votes in favour, 143 against and 20 abstentions. Under the new rules, Europol will be authorised to undertake research and innovation initiatives, process large datasets, and assist national agencies in screening foreign direct investment in security-related cases. In addition, Europol will be authorised to receive data from private companies when dealing with terrorist content or child sexual abuse material. Additionally, to ensure adequate scrutiny of Europol’s new powers the co-legislators agreed to install a new Fundamental Rights Officer. Further, the deal included provisions to ensure the European Data Protection Supervisor oversees Europol’s collection of personal data. The adopted text must be formally adopted by the Council of the EU, before it is published in the EU’s Official Journal and enters into force. Commenting on the development, the Rapporteur for the file, Spanish MEP Javier Zarzalejos stated it marks “a substantial leap forward in the capabilities of the Agency, in its ability to support member states, in its governance framework and, last but certainly not least, in the enhanced system of safeguards we have put in place.” (link)

Additionally, worth noting that the Council of the European Union has appointed Ms. Catherine De Bolle, a Belgian, for a second term as Europol Executive Director. (link)

Country News:

 ·       Austria: Authorities in Austria arrested 92 of the 205 people suspected of being linked to smuggling gangs operating in Central and Eastern Europe. (link)

·       Belgium: The Belgian Federal Judicial Police (FJP) is urgently calling for more economic support as well as extra staff to crack down on serious crime cases. (link)

·       Bulgaria: According to a Human Rights Watch statement, Bulgarian authorities are “brutally mistreating” Afghan and other asylum seekers to illegally push them back into Turkey. (link)

·       France: French police are once again in the spotlight for their crowd control tactics, following the chaos at the Stade de France during the Champions League final that resulted in more than 200 injuries and 68 arrests.  (link)

·       Germany: According to head of Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office, German police recorded a significant increase in depictions of child sexual abuse compared to the previous year. (link)

·       Netherlands: According to a report by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, the Dutch border police has intercepted a large number of forged documents, 10% more than last year. (link)

·       Slovenia: Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović has called on Slovenia to drop lawsuits and administrative harassment of civil society activists. (link)

Other news
Council of Europe renews EuroCOP’s registration on list of INGOs entitled to lodge collective complaints

EuroCOP has been approved for renewal of its registration on the list of International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) entitled to lodge complaints, under the collective complaints procedure of the European Social Charter. EuroCOP’s renewal was approved at the 144th meeting of the Governmental Committee of the Council of Europe. The registration is valid for the period from 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2026. For context, the collective complaints procedure had been introduced by the Additional Protocol providing for a system of collective complaints, adopted in 1995, enabling eligible INGOs to directly apply to the European Committee of Social Rights for rulings where non-implementation of the European Social Charter is deemed to have taken place. Past decisions adopted by the European Committee of Social Rights in this context can be consulted using the European Social Charter Caselaw Database (HUDOC Charter). Reacting to the development, EuroCOP stated “We will continue to actively use this crucial facility for the benefit of social rights for EuroCOP members of the European Trade Union Confederation.” (link)

EuroCOP President Calum Steele flags “observed concern” about Malta’s police at EU level

In an interview with the Times of Malta, EuroCOP President Calum Steele has stated that concern persists regarding a close relationship between the government and the police in Malta, particularly with respect to making key appointments. “Unless there is a clear distinction between the police and the state, that makes it very difficult for the citizens that work in any nation to have supreme confidence that the individual is being left to deliver a pure policing service,” Steele stated. Malta had revised its process for appointing police commissioners in 2020 to ensure external applications were taken into consideration – and while the current commissioner, Angelo Gafá is the first Commissioner appointed through this procedure, civil society group Repubblika had criticized the change as piecemeal on the basis that the Prime Minister of Malta would still retain the right to hire and fire Police Commissioners. Repubblika had added at the time their additional concern that the Prime Minister Robert Abela would still also appoint the members of the Public Service Commission.

A delegation from EuroCOP had been in Malta to meet with Commissioner Gafa and the new Permanent Secretary at the Home Affairs Ministry, Emanuel Psaila to discuss concrete ways to improve dialogue between police senior management and officers, and to create better conditions for the country’s police officers and stations, many of which Mr. Steele described as “antiquated, very old fashioned facilities.” “If your general work environment is flaky paint and not particularly comfortable to work in, akin to offices from the 1950s and 1960s, that’s not going to deliver the best outcome from your police service,” Steele emphasised. (link)

Look Ahead:

–          8 June: CEPOL Webinar. This webinar, to which CEPOL is inviting law enforcement officials, aims to promote and improve knowledge on the TAIEX technical assistance instrument and the support services offered by the European Maritime Industry based in Lisbon. More information is available here, with registration details on CEPOL’s e-learning platform LEEd available here.

–          14-17 June: CEPOL Webinar. CEPOL is hosting a webinar open to law enforcement officials on Countering Serious Organised Crime and Mafia-Style Groups – Investigation Techniques. More information available here.

–          15 July: Meeting of the Council Law Enforcement Working Party. Agenda not yet public.

–          23-24 June: European Council summit. On the provisional agenda: Ukraine, economic issues, the Conference on the Future of Europe, Wider Europe.

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