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European union / EU institutions / Decentralised bodies of the European Union (agencies)

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Europol, the European Police Office, was set up in 1992 to handle Europe-wide criminal intelligence. It is based in The Hague of the Netherlands, and its staff includes representatives of the national law enforcement agencies (police, customs, immigration services, etc.).

Europol's aim is to help the EU member states co-operate more closely and effectively in preventing and combating organised international crime, in particular:

  • drug trafficking
  • immigration networks
  • vehicle trafficking
  • trafficking in human beings including child pornography
  • forgery of money and other means of payment
  • trafficking in radioactive and nuclear substances
  • terrorism

Europol supports member states by:

  • facilitating the exchange of information between Europol and Europol Liaison Officers (ELOs). These ELOs are seconded to Europol by the Member States as representatives of their national law enforcement agencies, thus they are not under the command of Europol and its Director. Furthermore, they act in accordance to their national law.
  • providing operational analysis and supporting Member States’ operations;
  • providing expertise and technical support for investigations and operations carried out within the EU, under the supervision and the legal responsibility of the Member States;
  • generating strategic reports (e.g. threat assessments) and crime analysis on the basis of information and intelligence supplied by Member States or gathered from other sources.

One of Europol's additional duties is to establish and maintain a computerised system to allow the input, access and analysis of relevant data. A Joint Supervisory Body, comprising two data protection experts from each EU country, ensures the proper use of all personal data held by Europol.

Europol is accountable to the Justice and Home Affairs Council, i.e. the justice and home affairs ministers of all the EU countries.

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