To combat cross-border crimes and terrorism in the EU, it is necessary for law enforcement authorities of different EU countries to cooperate between each other effectively. Previously, authorities cooperated on an ad-hoc basis, bilaterally or multilaterally. Today, the EU facilitates a quicker, safer, and more structured law enforcement cooperation.
The Commission and EU law enforcement agencies, such as the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), cannot investigate autonomously nor lead police operations. This remains the EU countries’ responsibility.
The Commission and EU agencies provide tools for the exchange of information between national law enforcement authorities.
Passenger data are usually composed of two types of data: Passenger Name Records (PNR) and Advance Passenger Information (API).
Learn how law enforcement authorities of different EU countries cooperate to ensure security inside the EU.
Europol is at the heart of EU support to Member States in countering serious crime and terrorism. The agency offers support and expertise to national law enforcement authorities in preventing and combating serious crime affecting two or more Member States, terrorism and forms of crime, which affect a common interest covered by a Union policy.
In particular, Europol is the EU's criminal information hub, providing information sharing capabilities. The backbone is Europol’s Secure Information Exchange Network Application (SIENA), and the Europol Information System (EIS).
Europol also supports operational coordination. The Agency’s Operational Centre is the hub for the exchange of data among Europol, Member States and third countries on specific criminal activities. For example, Europol’s operational analysis supports criminal investigations undertaken by Member States. Europol’s specialised centres provide tailor-made operational support and expertise to counter organised crime, cybercrime and terrorism. For example, the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) provides operational support to Member States in investigations following terrorist attacks.
The Agency’s strategic analysis products aim to give an insight and better understanding of crime and criminal trends, helping decision-makers to identify priorities in the fight against organised crime and terrorism.
On 9 December 2020, the Commission has proposed to strengthen the Europol mandate to allow the agency to better support national law enforcement authorities with information, analysis and expertise, and to facilitate cross-border police cooperation and terrorism-related investigations. The Commission has also adopted a proposal to enable Europol to issue alerts in the Schengen Information System (SIS) on the basis of third country sourced information, in particular, to detect foreign terrorist fighters.
Since 1 May 2017, Europol no longer concludes any agreements which allow for the exchange of personal data. However, the agency is permitted to conclude working arrangements which, similar to strategic agreements, govern the practical aspects of exchanging non-personal data and regulate all the practical aspects of the cooperation.
Now, after the entry into force of the Europol Regulation on 1 May 2017, the competence to conclude international agreements for the exchange of personal data between Europol and third countries has been transferred to the Union acting pursuant to Article 218 TFEU.
The first Agreement was signed with New Zealand on 27th June 2022 and there are ongoing negotiations with other countries [including Turkey and Israel]. The Commission has also received directives for negotiating international agreements with Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia.
Examples of cooperation
The EU Institutions (Commission, Council and Parliament) further facilitate law enforcement cooperation within the EU in different ways.
- EU legislation such as the EU passenger name record (PNR) Directive,
- databases such as the Schengen Information System (SIS) or the Visa information system (VIS),
- and helping EU countries implement existing legal instruments such as the Prüm decisions or the Swedish decision.
Promote operational cooperation through:
- the EU policy cycle for organised and serious international crime/European multidisciplinary platform against criminal threats (EMPACT), through which EU countries, agencies and partners organise around 200 EU joint operational actions against organised and serious international crime per year,
- EU legislation organising cross-border cooperation between EU countries such as joint investigations against cross-border crime, joint patrols, cross-border hot pursuits or surveillances,
- operational support to EU countries provided by EU agencies such as Europol,
- training provided by the EU Agency for law enforcement training (CEPOL) and
- supporting national actions through funding, training, and research and innovation.