Europol is the law enforcement agency of the European Union based in The Hague (the Netherlands) with the main tasks of (1) analysing intelligence and criminal information, and (2) supporting transnational police operations undertaken by the Member States in order to prevent and combat organised crime, terrorism and other forms of serious crime.
Other relevant competences of Europol are the participation on Joint Investigation Teams, the possibility to ask national authorities for the initiation, conduction or coordination of police investigations, and the provision of technical support to the operations undertaken by national law enforcement authorities.
Europol is composed of more than 620 officials, who are recruited from different types of law-enforcement agencies, including regular police, border police, customs and security services of the Member States. In addition, the Member States second at least one liaison officer to Europol headquarters. These liaison officers constitute the national liaison bureaux at Europol and are instructed by their national units to represent the interests of the latter within Europol according to their respective national laws.
Europol staff does not have any executive powers, as those remain under the scope of the competences of the law enforcement authorities of the Member States.
For the appropriate exchange of information with the EU Member States, Europol has established a Secure Information Exchange Network Application (SIENA). It is a user-friendly communication system that facilitates the exchange of intelligence, strategic and operational information in a secure and confidential environment. The third countries that have signed a cooperation agreement with Europol may also use SIENA for the purposes of the exchange of information.
EU legal instrument governing Europol:
- Regulation (EU) 2016/794 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2016 on the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol). DO L 135, 24.5.2016 – EN
- About the mission, composition, tasks and competences of Europol in general, see GUTIÉRREZ ZARZA, A.: «Europol», in Exchange of information and data protection in cross-border criminal proceedings in Europe, (coord. by the author) Springer edit., 2014, p. 91 y ss.