On Wednesday, the European Parliament plenary gave its final green light to granting new powers to Europol.
With 480 in favour, 143 against, and 20 abstaining, MEPs endorsed the deal reached in February by Parliament and Council negotiators on strengthening the mandate of Europol, the EU’s police agency, which supports police investigations carried out by the member states.
Under the new rules, Europol will be able to pursue research and innovation projects, process large datasets, and help national authorities screen foreign direct investment in security-related cases. When dealing with terrorist content or child sexual abuse material, Europol will be able to receive data from private companies, for example communication services.
New Fundamental Rights Officer and ensuring respect of EU data protection rules
To balance the police agency’s new powers with appropriate supervision, the co-legislators agreed that the agency will create a new post for a Fundamental Rights Officer. In addition, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) will oversee Europol’s personal data processing operations, and work together with the agency’s Data Protection Officer. Citizens will be able to consult personal data related to them by contacting authorities in member states, or Europol directly.
After the vote, rapporteur Javier Zarzalejos (EPP, ES) said: “This Regulation, and the new mandate for Europol, mark 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.”
The legal text now needs to be formally adopted by the Council, before it is published in the EU’s official journal and enters into force.