Thursday

19th Apr 2018

Denmark clinches Europol 'backdoor' deal

  • Denmark will have access 24/7 to Europol's databases through Danish-speaking officers based in the agency's headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands (Photo: Søren Storm Hansen)

Denmark is leaving Europol on Monday (1 May), but thanks to a last-minute agreement it will still have access to EU police agency's databases.

The decision to leave was taken by Danish voters in a referendum in December 2015, when they decided to keep a so-called opt-out from EU cooperation on justice and home affairs issues.

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The government and the EU immediately sought to guarantee some Danish participation in the agency's work.

According to the cooperation agreement signed on Saturday, Denmark will still have 24/7 access to Europol's databases through Danish-speaking officers based in the agency's headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands.

Danish police and Europol will continue to share information and analysis. They will also assist each other "in connection with the establishment and work in joint investigation teams, including joint investigation teams established with other co-member states".

Europol will have to disclose information "if absolutely necessary to prevent an imminent life threat".

Denmark will also be able to participate in Europol's board meetings, having an observer status but without voting rights.

"The solution agreed with Denmark is a tailor-made arrangement allowing for a sufficient level of cooperation," EU home affairs and security commissioners, Dimitris Avramopoulos and Julian King, said in a statement.

"I am very pleased with the deal that has been concluded. We have worked hard for it," Danish prime minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said in Brussels on Saturday.

'Ad-hoc solution'

He said the deal was not "a parallel agreement" to keep Denmark in Europol despite the popular vote.

"We are leaving Europol. We are no longer a member of Europol," he said.

The deal had been approved by the Danish and European Parliament on Thursday. EU member states rubber-stamped it on Friday through a written procedure.

The agreement had been put forward by the European Commission last year. It had been described by Rasmussen as a "back door" to Europol after the Danes had "thrown away" the keys to the main door.

Also on Thursday, the Danish parliament passed a law on data protection that was required by the EU to conclude the new Europol accord.

Diplomatic sources said on Saturday that cooperation has been good between EU institutions and the Danish government. The commission, in particular, helped to draft the text and "did much to accommodate" Copenhagen.

"Danes voted between having access to a buffet and stop eating," one EU source joked. "After the vote they realised they were alone, so we had to cobble together an ad-hoc solution".

Denmark was added earlier this year on the list of third countries with which Europol can strike cooperations agreements.

Review in 2020

The cooperation will be reviewed by the Commission in 2020 and can continue only if Denmark remains a member of the EU and the passport-free Schengen area.

As an EU member, and contrary to Schengen-member Norway or other countries on Europol's cooperation list, Denmark is not obliged to justify why it asks access to the agency's databases.

Europol currently has 28 member states and co-operates with 12 so-called third countries, including Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland.

Starting from Monday, the police agency operates under a new regulation that gives it extended powers in the fight against cross-border crime, terrorism, and cybercrime, in particular by making it easier to set up specialised units and to serve as a hub for EU national agencies.

The entry into force of the new regulation was the reason why Denmark, due to the "opt-outs" it got in 1992 after the EU adopted the Maastricht treaty, had to choose whether to remain or not in the agency.

Late last year, the UK, which also had an opt-out, decided to remain a full member of Europol despite Brexit.

Europol's boss, Rob Wainwright, is British.

EU offers Denmark backdoor to Europol

Denmark's government and political parties are examining a draft agreement that would secure links with Europol starting May 2017, in a follow-up to a referendum last year that rejected full membership into the EU law enforcement agency.

UK to remain in Europol for now

The British government has announced it will opt in to the EU police agency's new regulation after May 2017

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On Thursday, the European Parliament will vote on a political deal on organic farming, following 19 months of behind-closed-doors negotiations. EUobserver here details a five-month odyssey to get access to the secret documents that led to the deal.

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