Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group (JPSG) on Europol Discusses Data Protection and Combating Financial Crime

Austrian Parliament, 25 September 2018

Austria Co-Chairs JPSG Meeting in Brussels for the Political Monitoring of the Activities of the European Union’s Law Enforcement Agency

Brussels/Vienna (PK) – Data protection and combating financial crime and money laundering were the key agenda items on the second day of the Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group (JPSG) on Europol meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels today. European Data Protection Assistant Supervisor Wojciech Wiewiórowski reported on the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals, in particular on the protection of personal data in connection with Europol's activities. In addition, European Commissioner for Security Union Julian King provided insights into the current status and progress of the Security Union.

Christian Buchmann (Austrian People’s Party, ÖVP), Chairman of the Austrian Federal Council’s EU Committee, together with MEP Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra (EPP), chaired today’s meeting, held in the context of the Parliamentary Dimension of the Austrian EU Presidency. The JPSG is composed of members of national parliaments and of the European Parliament.

King: Cyber security challenges must be tackled jointly

European Commissioner for Security Union Julian King provided insights into the current status and progress of the Security Union, especially with regard to cyber security. Joint scrutiny efforts such as those carried out by the JPSG are very important for all those working with Europol, the EU Commissioner emphasised at the beginning of his remarks. He also thanked the European law enforcement agency expressly for its excellent work. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has recently announced new initiatives aimed at meeting the challenges of the future, for example in combating terrorist online content, which poses a real danger and plays an key role in attacks, reported Mr. King.

The current state of play, i.e. voluntary cooperation with the major Internet platforms, is insufficient, Mr. King stated. For that reason, a proposal for EU-wide legislation has been put forward requiring platforms to take action against such specific threats. The objective is not to censor, the Commissioner stressed, but effective sanctions are also needed if there is a systematic failure to remove terrorist content. The package of measures is therefore not only aimed at ensuring secure elections, but also at combating fake news. Mr. King announced that a corresponding code of conduct would be concluded with the major platforms so that democratic activities would not be shadowed by doubt.

The European Commissioner emphasised that the overall objective was to ensure that the EU develops more resilience toward cyber threats both as a whole, as well as in cooperation with international partners such as the US and Canada. At EU level, an agency on Internet security is currently being set up, and another measure may take the shape of an Internet certification framework. The range of penalties for terrorist content must also act as a deterrent, he pointed out. The aim is also to facilitate police investigations involving cross-border electronic communication, Mr. King said. Taking into account the specific challenges of combating terrorist financing, he said he could also envisage a kind of EU-wide tracking system in the future.

Wiewiórowski: Fruitful cooperation with Europol on data protection

In his presentation, European Data Protection Assistant Supervisor Wojciech Wiewiórowski addressed the issue of protecting personal data in conjunction with Europol's activities. At European level, the EU Data Protection Supervisor has also been monitoring Europol since 2017, stated Mr. Wiewiórowski, who highlighted the very fruitful cooperation in this area. He reported on the ongoing communications with the law enforcement agency and regular monitoring visits. Technical and legal analyses, for example focusing on data entry and data verification, take place on site. Recently, 45 recommendations for Europol had been drawn up, which, according to Mr. Wiewiórowski, the agency was also incorporating on an ongoing basis. There has been no situation requiring the initiation of an official investigation, and cooperation with Europol is running smoothly. When there is a need for action, Europol has reacted accordingly and has tried to find an immediate solution, he reported.

Another part of the coordination between the European Data Protection Supervisor and Europol is the organisation of cooperation with the 28 national data protection authorities of the Member States. These efforts are to undergo further expansion, Mr. Wiewiórowski continued. In addition, an opinion on cooperation between Europol and international partners is currently being drafted.

A conference on the subject of data protection at Europol is also planned for November, which will deal specifically with the General Data Protection Regulation and what it entails for law enforcement authorities, data retention and privacy. The conference will feature the FBI’s data protection officer, as well as Austrian data protection expert Max Schrems, among others.

New challenges in fighting financial crime and money laundering

Europol's work in combating financial crime and money laundering, and in asset recovery was also on the agenda. Uncovering systematic money flows has been a priority for crime fighting activities in 2018, said Catherine De Bolle, Europol Executive Director. New forms of money laundering have also evolved alongside more traditional forms like the use of shell companies. According to Ms. De Bolle, it is becoming increasingly common to use virtual currencies, i.e. cryptocurrencies, for money laundering purposes, as sufficient regulations are still lacking. Developing new methods to deal with this problem is key, she said.

Overall, Europol is at the forefront of the fight against financial crime in the EU and is committed to networking all of the actors in combating this phenomenon, said the Europol Executive Director. A courageous response is needed in light of the new challenges; for example, better investigation outcomes can be achieved by sharing findings with financial institutions, Ms. De Bolle proposed. Europol launched a private-public-partnership pilot project at this level in 2017, said Ms. De Bolle, stressing the need to combat financial crime more efficiently and calling for the money laundering component to be included in all investigations. Moreover, she urged further improvements in cooperation with national institutions, for example by setting up a European financial intelligence unit.

A Dutch pilot project aimed at combating terrorist financing through cooperation among police, prosecutors, major banks and insurance companies, i.e. between public and private partners, was also presented at the Meeting.

Information on the JPSG and the meeting agenda can be found on the Austrian Parliament's website at https://www.parlament.gv.at/PERK/PE/EU2018/EUROPOL/. The next meeting of the JPSG on Europol is to take place in Bucharest next February, as Romania is the next Member State to hold the rotating Council Presidency. (End Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group (JPSG) 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 www.parlament.gv.at/SERV/FOTO/ARCHIV

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