Europol to get wider powers.

Europol, the EU's police force, founded in 1999 so still in its infancy, is to get wider powers.

Its main aim is to protect the EU's 455 million citizens from terrorism.

Europol set to get wider powers

It is hoped Europol will be better able to fight terrorism
European Union ministers have agreed to increase the powers of Europe's police agency, Europol, to give it an operational role in investigations.

EU justice and interior ministers, meeting in Vienna, agreed that Europol needed to become more efficient.

But changes cannot be made until all 25 EU states ratify the protocols of Europol's founding convention.

Europol provides intelligence and support to national police forces, but cannot arrest suspects.

Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal and Sweden have not yet ratified the protocols, one of which provides for joint investigations.

Crime scene function

Europol, which is based in The Hague, the Netherlands, was founded in 1992 to improve co-operation between the police forces of European Union members.

However, it has been restricted to the role of providing expertise, information and technical support.

The EU's anti-terror co-ordinator, Gijs de Vries, said there was a general desire to now see Europol take on an operational role.

"To strengthen the fight against terrorism we need to give Europol clear competences," he added.

Arresting suspects will remain the domain of national police forces.

"But we want our officials to be able to go to the place of a crime, search or confiscation and to advise national authorities what to look for," said Europol Director Max-Peter Ratzel.

It is hoped that the changes will make Europol better able to tackle cross-border crimes like terrorism, people and drug trafficking, and money laundering.

All 25 of the EU's states are members of Europol plus Romania and Bulgaria who will join the Union on 1st January 2007.

Europol's Director is appointed by the unanimous decision of the Council of the European Union. Since the contract of Europol's first director, Jürgen Storbeck of Germany expired in June 2004, Deputy Director Mariano Simancas (Spain) had been appointed Acting Director. Differences among EU Member States (France, Germany and Italy in particular) resulted in delays in appointing a new Director. On February 24, 2005, the Justice and Home Affairs Council finally selected Mr. Max-Peter Ratzel for the position of Europol Director. He took up his position as Director on April 16, 2005. Ratzel started his career in the BKA (Federal Criminal Police Office, Wiesbaden, Germany) in 1976, where he was the Head of the Organised and General Crime Department.

Europol is politically accountable to the Justice and Home Affairs Council via the Europol Management Board.

The Council controls the appointment of Europol's Director and Deputy Directors. It also controls Europol's budget (2005; €63.4 million, financed from member state contributions, rather than the EU budget) and any legislative instruments it deems necessary for Europol.

The Europol Management Board is staffed with Interior Ministry officials with one representative from every participating member state. It meets at least twice per year and exercises political control over more routine staffing and budetary matters, amongst other things.

The Joint Supervisory Body oversees data protection in Europol and has two representative from each participating state's data protection supervisory body.

Financial supervision over Europol is aided by a committee of auditors drawn from the membership of the European Court of Auditors and known as the Joint Audit Committee. The Joint Audit Committee is not technically part of the European Court of Auditors as the Europol budget is not part of the overall EU budget. This unusual arrangement preserves the intergovernmental character of Europol.

The European Court of Justice has minimal jurisdicion over Europol with its remit extending only to limited interpretation of the Europol Convention.

The European Ombudsman, while not given a formal role in the Europol Convention, seems to have gained de facto recognition as a arbitrator in Europol matters relating to requests for access to documents and Europol staff disputes.
Good for them It's nice seeing Europeans working together. All hail our future over lords... oh wait thats the Chiness.

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