Catalan police in Europol: hot debate lands in Brussels
“A more timely and effective sharing of the information could have saved lives,” EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said
Terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils have reignited the long-running debate over whether the Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, should be granted direct access to the European Union’s Agency for Law Enforcement cooperation (Europol).
Not only has this debate worsened the already harsh political clash between Catalan and Spanish Governments, it has also been brought up to the EU by members of the European Parliament (MEP).
“The Mossos, the police from Barcelona, from Catalonia, were not able to access information on the terrorists who directed the attack, which was provided by other member states and that was available through the Europol,” said Ana Gomes (S&D, Portugal), speaking at a debate in the European Parliament (EP) Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. “So this is still the big problem, it’s the political barriers that exist within member states, but also between member states, in the sharing of information.”
“So this is still the big problem, it’s the political barriers that exist within member states"
Ana Gomes · S&D MEP, Portugal
Gomes addressed the EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos. He conceded that a better coordination between law enforcement agencies could have helped prevent the attacks: “The attacks in Barcelona, in Turkey, London, Stockholm and Berlin before that, show beyond any doubt that in several of these attacks a more timely and effective sharing of information could have saved lives.”
Catalan MEPs have also brought the issue to the attention of EU institutions. Ernest Urtasun (Greens/EFA) sent a written question to the European Commission asking whether Catalan police could be considered a “competent authority” in order to grant them direct access to Europol.
This question points to a key point of the debate: according to Article 7 of Europol’s regulation, member states should designate a national unit as a liaison body with Europol. Yet, it also makes it clear that countries can also allow direct contact with “competent authorities.”
In Catalonia, the Mossos are the police body responsible for the type of crimes that Europol normally deals with, as pointed out by Urtasun.
Spanish authorities have so far refused to compromise over granting Catalan police direct contact with Europol. The Spanish authorities argue that the Mossos already have access to the information through them, and that the coordination between police forces is working well.
Catalan MEP Ramon Tremosa (ALDE) urged the Spanish government to address the situation “immediately” and underlines that it is the one responsible for granting Catalan police direct access to Europol. “It’s a very important security issue for all citizens and we can’t accept more delays or excuses,” he said.