Accountability

Like any EU agency, Europol functions according to a system of controls, checks and balances

Europol is democratically managed on the basis of a system of controls, checks and supervision of governance.

EU justice and interior ministers, MEPs, other EU bodies, a management board drawn from all EU Member States, and its directorate all play important roles in managing Europol and ensuring that it is accountable.

Europol has been an EU agency since 2010. It is ultimately accountable to the Council of Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs, which comprises the relevant ministers from all EU Member States. The Council is responsible for the main control and guidance of Europol, and appoints the agency’s Executive Director and Deputy Directors.

Together with the European Parliament (EP), the Council approves Europol’s budget (which is part of the EU’s general budget) as well as adopts regulations related to Europol’s work.

The EP plays an important role in overseeing Europol. In addition to adopting the agency’s annual budget, the EP issues the discharge — the decision by which it releases the European Commission (EC) from its responsibility for managing a given budget, by indicating the end of the period in which that budget has been executed. The discharge is granted by Parliament on a recommendation from the Council. The EP is also consulted in the adoption of new Council regulations concerning Europol.

Europol Management Board

Europol’s governing body, Management Board, gives it strategic guidance and oversees the implementation of its tasks. The Board comprises one high-ranking representative from each EU Member State and from the European Commission, each of whom has one vote.

The Management Board, which must reach decisions by a two-thirds majority, meets at least twice a year to discuss a wide range of issues related to Europol’s current activities and its future development. It adopts Europol’s annual budget, its programming document and a general report on the previous year’s activities.

It then submits these documents for endorsement to the Council of Ministers, which in turn forwards them to the European Parliament for its information.

Europol Directorate

In its day-to-day operations, Europol is headed by a Executive Director, who is appointed by a unanimous decision of the Council of Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs, after the Council has obtained the opinion of the Management Board.

The Executive Director, who is appointed for a four-year term, with the possibility of a second, is responsible for:

  • overseeing the administration of Europol
  • seeing to the performance of tasks assigned to Europol
  • overseeing the management of personnel
  • any other tasks consigned to him by the Europol Council Decision or by the Management Board.

Europol’s current Executive Director is Rob Wainwright, who assumed the post in 2009.

The Executive Director is assisted in his position by three Deputy Directors, who are also appointed by the Council for a four-year term, with the possibility of a second. The current Deputy Directors are:

Financial accountability

Europol abides by the same principles as other EU agencies and institutions in terms of transparency and financial accountability. A number of institutions and bodies are involved in enforcing financial accountability at the agency, including the:

  • European Court of Auditors
  • Internal Audit Service
  • Internal Audit Function.

External financial oversight

The monitoring of the commitment and disbursement of expenditures, as well as the establishment and collection of Europol’s income, follows the general rules of the EU, such as budgetary discipline and sound financial management.

Europol’s annual accounts are subject to an external audit carried out by the European Court of Auditors (ECA). The ECA is an EU institution independent of Europol, as provided for in Articles 285-287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

The ECA provides the budgetary authority with a statement of assurance as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions. The ECA draws up an annual report after the close of each financial year. This report, together with the replies from the bodies concerned, including Europol, is published by the ECA in the Official Journal of the EU. It is the basis for the European Parliament, following a recommendation from the Council, to take the aforementioned discharge decision on Europol’s implementation of the budget. The ECA may also, at any time, submit observations, particularly in the form of special reports, on specific questions, and deliver opinions at the request of another EU institution (referred to in Art. 13 of the TFEU).

Internal oversight

Oversight of Europol is also included in the remit of the Internal Audit Service (IAS), the internal auditor of the European Commission’s departments and agencies. As Europol’s internal auditor — it doesn’t audit the agency for the Commission, but for the agency — the IAS provides a wider, independent view of the accountability procedures within the agency, offering solutions to problems that may arise.

Another level of internal supervision is provided by the Internal Audit Function (IAF), which operates within Europol and is appointed by and solely accountable to the Management Board. The IAF’s mission is to provide independent and objective assurance and consultancy services, by means of audits, to the Europol, which it also advises on addressing risks to the organisation.

European Ombudsman

The European Ombudsman provides a further layer of accountability at Europol. The Ombudsman’s mission is to serve democracy by working with EU institutions, including Europol, to create a more effective, accountable, transparent and ethical administration. It investigates complaints against EU institutions and bodies.

Any member of the public that has concerns about maladministration in the activities of these institutions and bodies has the right to register a complaint on the matter with the Ombudsman.

Europol adheres to the key principles of good governance promoted by the Ombudsman’s European Code of Good Administrative Behaviour:

  • fairness
  • proportionality
  • objectivity
  • lawfulness
  • impartiality.