by Marine Marx
The long awaited Commission legislative proposal updating Europol to the new legal framework as described by art 88 of the TFEU has been recently submitted to the European Parliament and to the Council of the European Union. Quite surprisingly the first issue which has arisen during the parliamentary debate has been the proposed fusion of Europol with CEPOL (the European Agency in charge of training Law enforcement authorities).
The fusion of Europol and Cepol as a first test of a new general policy on EU agencies
It is worth recalling that this proposal comply with the general EU objective to make some order in the recent mushrooming of EU agencies (already 32, 23 of them created only in the last ten years). These decentralized agencies are playing an essential role not only in the implementation phase at technical, scientific and operational level but also when shaping new strategies and proposing new legislation in all EU domains of competence. However, as explained in a Joint Statement of the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission on decentralized agencies, their creation has been done on a case by case basis without an overall vision of their role and place in the European institutional and legal framework. This led to an increase of decentralized agencies in a way that lack of consistency. To face these distortions, the Commission explained in the Roadmap on the follow-up to the Common Approach on EU decentralised agencies its objectives to reach a more balanced governance, improved efficiency and accountability and greater coherence.
Thus, one of the major objectives is to enhance agencies’ efficiency and accountability. One of the initiatives to be pursued in this respect is to seek synergies between agencies, such as the possibility of sharing services based on proximity of locations or policy area or that of merging agencies whose tasks are overlapping and which would more efficient if inserted in a bigger structure.
This point stressed in the Common Approach establishes the foundations for the Commission’s proposal on a revision of Europol and its potential merger with CEPOL.
However merging Europol and Cepol risks to be a bumpy road..
On Tuesday, the 7th of May, a debate was held within the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee (LIBE) about the merger of the European Police College (Cepol) with the European Police Cooperation Agency (Europol). Thus, the LIBE committee organized during its meeting an exchange of views with Dr Ferenc Banfi, Director of CEPOL and Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol and the Chairs of the Management Boards on the proposal of a merger between Europol and CEPOL.
The European Police Office (EUROPOL) started as an intergovernmental body regulated by a Convention concluded between the Member States, which entered into force in 1999. By virtue of a Council Decision adopted in 2009, EUROPOL became an EU agency funded by the EU budget. Its role is to provide support to national law enforcement services’ action and their mutual cooperation in the prevention of and fight against serious crime and terrorism.
Whereas, the European Police College (CEPOL) was established as an EU agency in 2005, in charge of activities related to the training of law enforcement officers. It aims to facilitate cooperation between national police forces by organising courses with a European policing dimension. Yet, these agencies are linked by the aim of fighting organised crimes in Europe. That is why a merger could have been feasible.
However, the debate turned out in a way that does not appear favourable for the Commission’s proposal. This proposal was made by the European Commission in March 2013 in order to increase the efficiency of both agencies. Indeed since CEPOL is in charge of the training of the police personnel in the EU, the Commission argued that it could improve the link between “training and operational support”. The aim of the Commission is thus to further strengthen the effectiveness of these agencies in the fight against serious and organised crimes.
Another argument for this merger is financial since it would make savings of over 17 million of Euros. This merger has been seen as the appropriate solution to achieve economies of scale given the overlapping interests and tasks of these two Community agencies.
As stated by the Draft Regulation:‘Merging Europol and CEPOL into a single agency…would create important synergies and efficiency gains. Combining the operational police cooperation know-how of Europol with the training and education expertise of CEPOL would strengthen the links and create synergies between the two fields. Contacts between the operational and the training staff working within a single agency would help identify training needs, thus increasing the relevance and focus of EU training, to the benefit of EU police cooperation overall. Duplication of support functions in the two agencies would be avoided, and resulting savings could be redeployed and invested in core operational and training functions. This is particularly important in an economic context, where national and EU resources are scarce and where resources to strengthen EU law enforcement training might not otherwise be available.’
Thus, the Commission strived to underline the advantages of this fusion.
What is the concerned Agencies position?
Nevertheless, the positions of the heads of the two agencies were clear. Both CEPOL and Europol explained being opposed to this merger. Different arguments were advanced. Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol, notably expressed that in addition to the fact that the Europol’s offices were not appropriate for such a merger, this does not seem to add a specific value to the functioning of these agencies.
With regard to CEPOL, this agency showed a stronger opposition. Indeed, Ferenc Banfi expressed his fear of a cut in funding for training, which would not allow an effective long-term European security. He argued that relations between the two agencies have never been so closed and this is enough to ensure a good policy quality. O’Mahoney, the Chair of the Management Board, also underlined that CEPOL and Europol have different mandates and a merger could affect its mission of formation.
The arguments of the CEPOL agency are included in its position paper on the creation of a European Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation and Training.It underlined that the package on the reform of Europol, de facto leading to the disappearance of CEPOL as an independent agency, is decisively rejected by the massive majority of the Governing Board.
In this position paper, it is notably stated that the financial benefits described by the Commission are not substantiated and the costs of the proposal are inadequately quantified. Moreover, new governance arrangements in the draft regulation would generate more cumbersome processes to the likely detriment of training quality, ownership and “buy-in” by the Member States, rather than streamlining decision making and improving efficiency. Another crucial argument is the fact that there is a serious risk that law enforcement training will be under-represented in the new Europol Management Board and the proposal does not guarantee adequate funding for law enforcement training beyond three years following the adoption of the regulation.
Finally, as stated in its position paper, CEPOL maintains, such as Europol, that results of cooperation with Europol are currently excellent not least due to the clear segregation of tasks currently existing between the two agencies, one based on a network of operational law enforcement bodies, the other on a network of training institutes. It’s those two distinct but interdependent and communicating pillars that make European law enforcement training most effective. In the merger scenario, the role of the network of Member States training institutes disappears, de facto “crippling” a well-functioning system.
What about the European Parliament?
As regards to the MEPs, they also expressed their reluctance to this merger. They understand that this merger was thinking in a view of a general reform of the Europol agency. Indeed, this proposal for a Regulation therefore provides for a legal framework for a new Europol which succeeds and replaces Europol as established by the Council Decision 2009/371/JHA establishing the European Police Office (EUROPOL), and CEPOL as established by Council Decision 2005/681/JHA establishing the European Police College (CEPOL) in order to deal with the strong increase in serious and organised crime in Europe over the last 10 years. This proposal is included in a general trend to seek solutions to strengthen and improve Europol by increasing also transparency and cooperation with Member States with a strong attention to the personal data protection.
However, they consider the fusion with CEPOL is not the good solution to increase the efficiency of the agency. Indeed, they argued that theses agencies are rather effective and the cooperation between the two of them is increasing and already improving to ensure the European security. On the contrary, a merger of Europol and CEPOL could affect their independence which is not desirable. This is illustrated by the position adopted by the rapporteur Agustin Diaz de Mera (EPP, Spain) who would prefer to examine other possible solutions. She stressed the fact it is important to strengthen the Europol’s structure by improving its status and its regulatory functions with a system of data protection, which offers sufficient guarantees. Yet, the data processing is a crucial aspect of the reform.
Others MEPs also expressed their scepticism for this Commission’s proposal. Their notably agreed on the fact that Europol has to evolve on many aspects but the merger with CEPOL would just make the situation even more complicated by hindering their independence. Even if they understand the need to make some savings, a merger between the two agencies would not been the adequate solution if the EU wants to preserve an efficient judicial cooperation for the European security. Financial savings do not seem to be a sufficient reason to risk to endanger the well functioning judicial cooperation in Europe. However, MEPs of the civil liberties committee stressed the fact that the European Parliament should the subjected to the control of the European Parliament, and this necessity should be included in the reform of the agency.
Thus, the LIBE committee take position in favour of the idea of finding others solutions for making savings and improving the functioning of theses institutions.
Commission’s proposal: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2013:0173:FIN:EN:HTML
Summary of the legislative proposal: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/summary.do?id=1257574&l=en&t=D
Summary of the Impact Assessment Part 1: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=SWD:2013:0099(52):FIN:EN:PDF
Summary of the Impact Assessment Part 2: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=SWD:2013:0099(51):FIN:EN:PDF
Roadmap on the follow-up to the Common Approach on EU decentralised agencies: http://europa.eu/agencies/documents/2012-12-18_roadmap_on_the_follow_up_to_the_common_approach_on_eu_decentralised_agencies_en.pdf
 CEPOL’s position paper on the creation of a European Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation and Training: http://www.statewatch.org/news/2013/may/eu-cepol-position-paper-europol-merger.pdf