Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group (JPSG) on Europol: Austria Co-Chairs Interparliamentary Meeting in Brussels

Austrian Parliament, 24 September 2018

Political Monitoring of EU Law Enforcement Agency by Parliamentarians from Throughout Europe

Brussels/Vienna (PK) – The Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group (JPSG), an interparliamentary monitoring body established in 2017, is meeting today and tomorrow at the European Parliament in Brussels to politically monitor the activities of Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency. Within the framework of the Parliamentary Dimension of the Austrian EU Presidency, the meeting is co-chaired by Angela Lueger (Social Democratic Party of Austria, SPÖ), Chair of the Committee on Internal Affairs of the Austrian National Council, together with Claude Moraes (S&D), Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. In addition to Ms. Lueger, the Austrian Parliament's delegation includes Christian Buchmann (Austrian People’s Party, ÖVP), Chair of the EU Committee of the Austrian Federal Council, and Peter Weidinger (Austrian People’s Party, ÖVP) and Jessi Lintl (Freedom Party of Austria, FPÖ), both Members of the Austrian National Council.

The JPSG is made up of members of the national parliaments and of the European Parliament. Europol, whose cross-border activities include combating terrorism, illegal arms trafficking, drug trafficking, child pornography and money laundering, is required to submit various working documents to the JPSG and to consult it before decisions are taken on multiannual programming. The EU Data Protection Supervisor is also required to report to the JPSG on an annual basis.

Lueger: Concentration on parliamentary scrutiny of law enforcement agency

On behalf of the Austrian delegation, Co-Chair Angela Lueger welcomed the participating parliamentarians from all over Europe to the meeting, being held in the plenary meeting room of the European Parliament. "Europol’s importance has grown considerably in recent years. Crime does not stop at the borders," said Ms. Lueger in her introductory remarks. Specially positioned to combat cross-border crime, the European law enforcement agency plays a decisive role in many cases, for example taking into account rapid technological advancements, and supports the work of the authorities in the Member States. The first meetings of the JPSG were devoted primarily to the drafting of the Rules of Procedure, and now the JPSG can concentrate on the actual task of exercising parliamentary scrutiny of the law enforcement agency, she said.

At a press conference at the European Parliament, Ms. Lueger also underlined the increasingly important role of national parliaments over the last few years, not only regarding their participation in the EU legislative process, but also in their monitoring and scrutiny of EU institutions. Ms. Lueger emphasised that two of Europol's key areas of focus were data protection and digitisation. The JPSG on Europol plays an important role in combating cross-border crime, such including cybercrime, cyberterror and human trafficking. In this context, she particularly welcomed the organisation of a conference on comprehensive data protection at Europol planned for November.

Weidinger: Security is a central issue for the Austrian EU Presidency

The meeting began with the Presidency Troika 2018-2019, Bulgaria, Romania and Austria, discussing the JPSG’s priorities. Peter Weidinger, Member of the Austrian National Council, pointed out that security was the key issue for the Austrian EU Presidency with its motto "A Europe that Protects". Two of the three major Austrian priorities outline this approach in more detail, said Mr. Weidinger. The focus is on security and fighting illegal migration with particular attention to protecting external borders and developing more effective repatriation capacities on the one hand, and on the other hand emphasising stability in Austria's neighbourhood and in the Western Balkans. From Austria's point of view, Europol's priorities include not only developing relations with third countries, in particular with the Western Balkans, but also the division of responsibilities and cooperation with the European Border Guard and Coastguard Agency Frontex. Here, it is important to further expand and exploit synergy effects as much as possible. Mr. Weidinger stressed that cooperation in tackling the issue of illegal migration was another key priority.

However, Mr. Weidinger said that the Europol budget for 2019 was also a particular concern of the Austrian Council Presidency. Negotiations between Europol and the EU Commission have yet to reach a satisfactory conclusion, and the budget framework requested by Europol has not yet been sufficiently taken into account.

De Bolle: The objective is to further expand Europol cooperation

In the following session Europol Executive Director Catherine De Bolle reported on the agency’s planned projects for implementation by 2021. One focus will be on enabling Europol's work to make a significant contribution to managing information on crime in the EU. In addition, Europol is looking to step up cooperation with the Member States and expand their support for investigative activities. However, further strengthening Europol can only happen with the backing of everyone involved, said Ms. De Bolle. She also stressed that she found it important to know the concerns of the individual Member States, particularly with an eye toward enhancing proximity to the EU’s citizens. The Europol Executive Director also highlighted the need for further strengthening cooperation with EU institutions and with international and EU agencies. On the issue of the multiannual financial framework, she also called on the national parliaments to support Europol's actual requirements. "Investing in Europol means investing directly in EU Member States," said De Bolle. Unfortunately, budget proposals to date have fallen short of what is needed, she recalled.

The JPSG discussed, among other things, the challenges of shaping future international cooperation, for example with regard to migration, the situation concerning Frontex and the Western Balkans, but also in connection with Brexit, especially with regard to the issue of cyberspace security, and not least concerning calls for more budget funding for Europol.

Tomorrow, the JPSG’s discussions will centre on data protection and fighting financial crime and money laundering. Statements will be given by European Data Protection Assistant Supervisor Wojciech Wiewiórowski, among others. European Commissioner for Security Union Julian King will present the current status and progress of the Security Union.

The Joint Parliamentary Supervisory Group (JPSG) on Europol was established by the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament on the basis of Article 51 of the Europol Regulation, which entered into force on 1 May 2017. The meetings take place twice a year under the co-chairmanship of the European Parliament. In the first half of the year, the JPSG meets in the country holding the EU Presidency and at the European Parliament in Brussels in the second half of the year. The national parliaments send up to four parliamentarians, and the European Parliament can send up to 16 MEPs to the JPSG. The constituent meeting took place in Brussels in October 2017. In the spring of this year, the JPSG met in Sofia, Bulgaria, the country holding the EU Presidency at the time. The current meeting in Brussels is therefore the JPSG’s third altogether. The conference can be live streamed at the website of the Austrian Parliament at www.parlament.gv.at/PERK/PE/EU2018/EUROPOL/. (Continuation Joint Parliamentary Supervisory Group on Europol)

PLEASE NOTE: Photos of the meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Supervisory Group on Europol held on 24 and 25 of September at the European Parliament in Brussels can be found at the website of the Austrian Parliament at https://www.parlament.gv.at/ENGL/PERK/PE/EU2018/EUROPOL/.

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