In December 2020, the European Commission issued a Proposal to amend the Europol Regulation regarding Europol’s cooperation with private parties, the processing of personal data by Europol in support of criminal investigations and Europol’s role on research and innovation. This amendment considerably expands the data processing powers of Europol without establishing an independent oversight over Europol’s data processing power. This could possibly have adverse effects on the fundamental rights of affected persons, both suspects and innocent people. Read more in our most recent comment.
In recent years, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, better known as Frontex, has become increasingly prominent. Whether expressed in terms of budget, legal remit and competencies, or scope of activities, the agency has made a quantum leap over a short period. Today, Frontex represents a relevant example of how the European executive exercises power that directly and significantly affects the lives of individuals, particularly asylum seekers and migrants seeking to enter Union territory. This note will address Frontex’s implementation of the EU right of public access to documents, a central pillar of EU bodies’ transparency obligations. It will set out: (a) the legal regime for access to documents, (b) Frontex’s obligations to proactively facilitate access to documents, (c) Frontex’s practices in dealing with requests for access to documents and (d) address the question of access to justice concerning public access to documents decisions.
At the end of 2020, a joint investigation conducted by Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, ARD, and TV Asahi revealed that Frontex had been involved in pushback operations at the Greek maritime border. This triggered closer scrutiny of Frontex’s role during the reported incidents by the European Parliament, OLAF and the European Ombudsman. It also led to a broader discussion of the agency’s obligations and its accountability more generally. In this context, severalquestions remain unanswered. The Meijers Committee takes this opportunity to address some of these questions and outline the obligations of Frontex and the Member States towards migrants found at sea. You can read our comment here.
In its State of the Union of 2018, the European Commission announced that it would take the initiative in a discussion on extending the competences of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office beyond criminal offences that affect the financial interests of the European Union. In its view, the Office should also be made competent for cases of cross-border terrorism. In its Communication(COM)2018 641), the European Commission proposes that the European Council and the European Parliament make use of their powers under Article 86 paragraph 4 TFEU, and amend Article 86paragraphs 1 and 2 TFEU. According to the European Commission, this is to be done in such a way that the Treaty will enable the future European Public Prosecutor’s Office to prosecute cases of terrorism before the criminal courts of the Member States participating in the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Meijers Committee wishes to make some remarks regarding this initiative – you can read the note here.
The Meijers Committee would like to take the opportunity to comment on the draftsfor a new Regulation on a European Border and Coast Guard, incorporating also the EUROSUR system (COM (2018) 631 final) and the amended proposal for a Regulation on a European Union Asylum Agency (COM(2018) 633 final).
The Meijers Committee takes the view that improving the interparliamentary scrutiny of Europol, with appropriate involvement of both the national and the European levels, will by itself enhance the attention being paid by Europol on the perspectives of democracy and the rule of law, and in particular the fundamental rights protection. It will raise the alertness of Europol as concerns these perspectives. Read more about this in our note on interparliamentary scrutiny of Europol.