Supervising Europol: the EDPS is ready!

Giovanni Buttarelli

Today, at the last Plenary Meeting of the Europol Joint Supervisory Body (JSB), the EDPS, represented by our Director, Christopher Docksey, and María Verónica Pérez Asinari, the Head of the EDPS Supervision and Enforcement Unit, attended the ceremony which marked the beginning of a new era in the data protection supervision of Europol.

Under the new Europol Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/794), the EDPS will take over responsibility from the JSB for the data protection supervision of Europol. The new Regulation will be fully applicable from the beginning of next month.

On issues requiring national involvement, the EDPS will cooperate with national supervisory authorities within the newly established Cooperation Board, which will meet for the first time in Brussels on 14 June 2017.

In monitoring compliance with the Europol Regulation, the EDPS is fully aware of the need to strike the right balance between security and privacy, taking into account the specificities of data processing in the police and justice area.

We are ready for the opening of a new chapter on supervision, reinforcing safeguards in a practical and modern way in line with the new challenges for law enforcement

In cooperation with our colleagues in national supervisory authorities, we have carefully prepared our processes and resources in order to perform effective supervision of Europol’s operations and responsive advice to Europol and its stakeholder community in setting up the new data protection safeguards required.

In performing our new role, building on previous results achieved, we will carry out a range of duties, including:

  • inspections, to be carried out by the EDPS in cooperation with national supervisory authorities;
  • advising Europol on all matters concerning the processing of personal data;
  • hearing and investigating complaints from individuals who consider their personal data to have been mishandled by Europol.

Just a few weeks ago, on 25 March 2017, heads of state and government came together with the Presidents of the EU Institutions in Rome to mark the 60th anniversary of the signature of the Treaties of Rome, which laid the foundations for the European Union we know today. This was the starting point of a journey which has as one of its core objectives an open and secure Europe, serving and protecting citizens.

A milestone in the roadmap for achieving this goal was the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force on 1 December 2009. The Treaty transformed the area of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters into a main area of EU law, subject to the full jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union, conferred binding legal effect on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and provided, under Article 16(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the legal basis for a strong EU-wide data protection law in all areas of EU policy.

In this respect, the Europol Regulation reinforces Europol’s capabilities. It strengthens procedural safeguards and data protection rights and brings them in line with the changes outlined in the Treaty, ensuring, in particular, that each individual has the right to submit complaints to an independent data protection authority, whose decisions are subject to judicial review.

The idea of a secure and open Europe can only become a reality if we are able to ensure two things: enhanced operational effectiveness in the fight against crimes which have a cross-border dimension and protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals.

We are ready to provide proactive advice and committed to ensuring that Europol’s activities are in full compliance with fundamental rights, including data protection.