The initial idea of the establishment of Europol – the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation was discussed at the EU Summit in 1991. The idea of setting up Europol was further elaborated and was reflected in the Maastricht Treaty of 1992. The Treaty provided for the creation of a cooperation tool in the area of justice and home affairs which will facilitate, for Member States, collection, analysis and exchange of information well as promoting mutual cooperation between national police authorities.

On 2 June 1993, Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs signed the Agreement on setting up Europol; however, the provision was alongside entrenched that coordinated actions must be taken in combating international crime already prior to Europol’s establishment. The European Police Office was established with signing of the Europol Convention on 26 July 1995. On the completion of ratification and other obligatory procedures, Europol commenced its full activities on 1 July 1999.

Europol is the EU agency aiming to help achieve a safer Europe for the benefit of all EU citizens. In order to fulfil its mission, the organisation set a few principal objectives, i.e. supporting activities and enhancing mutual cooperation among MS law enforcement agencies in the areas of prevention and suppression of organised crime, terrorism and other forms of serious crime which impacts two or more Member States. Apart from this, Europol is the EU central office for combating euro counterfeiting. Europol ensures information exchange not only between Member States but also between third countries that have cooperation agreements with Europol (e.g Australia, Canada, Columbia, Ukraine, Monaco, Serbia, USA).

The total of 1,065 staff are presently employed at Europol, among which eleven are nationals of the Republic of Lithuania.

The major crime areas Europol and Member States focus their efforts on are the following: drug trafficking, money laundering, illegal immigrant smuggling, trafficking in human beings, organised crime, cybercrime, vehicle crime, violent crimes, illicit trade in human organs and tissue, racketeering and extortion of property, counterfeiting goods and piracy, forgery of money and means of payment, forgery of documents, corruption, trafficking in firearms, ammunition and explosives, and other crimes.

Lithuania’s cooperative relationship with Europol which started as early as 1996 was initially concerned with certain areas only, specifically joint training programmes and investigations of individual criminal offences. Lithuanian police officers took part, at Europol’s invitation, in a few police operations aimed at investigating illegal migration flows, trends in trafficking in human beings and the magnitude of vehicle thefts.

On 1 September 2004, upon Lithuania’s ratification of the Europol Convention and its additional protocols on 22 April 2004, it became a full member of Europol. The duty of every single member is to establish or appoint a national unit which serves as a liaison office between Europol and law enforcement agencies in EU member countries. In a certain sense, it is a country’s “gateway” to Europol. Such a national unit in Lithuania, called Europol and Interpol National Unit, was established as a constituent part of the Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau. Providing Europol with information and intelligence necessary for the performance of tasks, responding to Europol’s information requests, constant updating of the data to be submitted, and providing information to be stored in Europol’s automated system are the key functions of this Unit.

Over the last few years, information exchange and operations conducted with Europol and foreign partners have most often been related to such crime areas as organised property crimes (robberies, thefts), drug trafficking, fraud/suspicious financial operations and vehicle crime (thefts of vehicles and parts from vehicles). Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries are the countries with whom information is commonly exchanged.

Europol is an institution dedicated to collecting, storing, processing and analysing information and intelligence as well as facilitating the exchange of such information. Europol’s officers immediately transmit, via national units, information relevant to MS competent authorities. Furthermore, Europol provides its support, through the provision of all relevant information to national units, in investigations conducted in Member States. In specific cases, it requests competent MS authorities to launch, conduct or coordinate investigations and proposes that they set up joint investigation teams. Provision of intelligence and analytical support by Europol is of major importance to law enforcement authorities of Member States.

Liaison officers appointed for a certain period of time to represent the interests of their country and those of national law enforcement agencies as well as to pursue direct cooperation, constitute one of the most efficient cooperative forms focused in Europol. With their workplaces based in Europol headquarters, and being on good terms with one another, liaison officers may, at any time, talk over topical issues in informal surroundings and mediate in solving various problems or tasks occurring. They give counsel on such matters as how to carry out certain activities better or how their national law enforcement systems function. Such practice and knowledge, as a rule, enables to save time in ongoing “live” investigations. Currently 201 liaison officers work for Europol, Lithuania being represented by two - police and customs liaison officers. 

Last updated: 06-12-2017