FECL 33 (April 1995):

EUROPOL: COMPROMISE PROPOSAL ON CITIZENS' ACCESS TO THEIR DATA

At an "informal" meeting in Paris, on 19 April, the ministers of the JHA Council once again discussed remaining problems over finalising the Europol Convention. Talks focused on two main questions: citizens' rights of "direct" access to their data stored in Europol's information system and the so-called "institutional" question of an eventual role for the European Court of Justice and the Court of Auditors.

 

Citizens' access to their data

According to a note by the Danish Ministry of Justice to two committees of the Danish Folketing (national parliament), the French presidency of the Council, represented by Interior Minister Charles Pasqua presented a new compromise proposal on whether citizens shall have a right to "direct" or "indirect" access to their data in Europol registers.

An difference of views on this issue mainly among France and Germany has hitherto blocked the finalisation of the Europol Draft Convention.

Germany is blaming France and other countries for refusing citizens direct access to their own data. According to German and Dutch law, citizens may address a request of information directly to the body storing his personal data. In France and other member states, such requests must be addressed to a special data protection body (in France: the Commission Nationale Informatique et Liberté) which will communicate the request to the holder of the data register concerned. An eventual answer to the request will also pass through this "filter".

Germany considers that this system of "indirect" access interferes with individual liberties guaranteed by the German constitution.

Under the new French proposal, a "common authority" and a "single application point" would be created within Europol where any EU citizen could ask to check his personal data stored by Europol. If the requested data originate from Europol's own analyses, the "common authority" would be in charge of checking the information. If the data originated from a national police authority, Europol would forward the request to the member state concerned, which would then handle it according to its national legislation. Thus, all member states could continue to apply their national legislation in the field.

According to the Danish note, the oral French proposal was met favourably by the representatives of those countries with "direct" access legislation. They, however, said, that they would await a more detailed and written version of the proposal before approving it.

 

Judicial control

No progress seems to have been made with regard to the judicial control of Europol by the European Court of Justice. New French proposals do not provide for any such role of the Court. Instead, disputes between the member states shall be solved by the Council. Other legal disputes shall be solved according either to national law of the member states or Dutch law, since Europol is located in The Hague.

The French proposal is likely to please the British, but failed to satisfy those member states who want appropriate judicial control of Europol.

 

Budget control

The French proposed to set up a particular "ad hoc panel" to control of Europol's budget. The panel would be made up by three alternating members of the EU Court of Auditors.

The proposal aims at meeting British objections against any role for Community institutions within the framework of Europol.

 

Consultation of the European Parliament

Finally, the French presidency suggested that the European Parliament should be informed and heard "in compliance with article K.6 of the Treaty on Union [Maastricht Treaty]", as it says in the Danish note. In particular, it shall be stated in the Convention that the European parliament be communicated an annual report on the activities of Europol and that it shall be "consulted" in the event of eventual changes of the Convention.

 

Sources: Note of the Danish Ministry of Justice, 21.4.95, 2 p., in Danish; La Libre Belgique, 19.4.95.