To combat cross-border crimes and terrorism in the EU, it is necessary for law enforcement authorities of different EU countries to cooperate between each other effectively. Previously, authorities cooperated on an ad-hoc basis, bilaterally or multilaterally. Today, the EU facilitates a quicker, safer, and more structured law enforcement cooperation.
The Commission and EU law enforcement agencies, such as the EU Agency for law enforcement (Europol), cannot investigate autonomously nor lead police operations. This remains the EU countries’ responsibility.
Europol is at the hearth of EU support to Member States in countering serious crime and terrorism. The agency offers support and expertise to national law enforcement authorities in preventing and combating serious crime affecting two or more Member States, terrorism and forms of crime, which affect a common interest covered by a Union policy.
In particular, Europol is the EU's criminal information hub, providing information sharing capabilities. The backbone is Europol’s Secure Information Exchange Network Application (SIENA), and the Europol Information System (EIS).
Europol also supports operational coordination. The Agency’s Operational Centre is the hub for the exchange of data among Europol, Member States and third countries on specific criminal activities. For example, Europol’s operational analysis supports criminal investigations undertaken by Member States. Europol’s specialised centres provide tailor-made operational support and expertise to counter organised crime, cybercrime and terrorism. For example, the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) provides operational support to Member States in investigations following terrorist attacks.
The Agency’s strategic analysis products aim to give an insight and better understanding of crime and criminal trends, helping decision-makers to identify priorities in the fight against organised crime and terrorism.
On 9 December 2020, the Commission has proposed to strengthen the Europol mandate to allow the agency to better support national law enforcement authorities with information, analysis and expertise, and to facilitate cross-border police cooperation and terrorism-related investigations. The Commission has also adopted a proposal to enable Europol to issue alerts in the Schengen Information System (SIS) on the basis of third country sourced information, in particular, to detect foreign terrorist fighters.
The EU Institutions (Commission, Council and Parliament) further facilitate law enforcement cooperation within the EU in different ways.
Promote operational cooperation through: