Resist Europol Document Pool

This document pool gathers all the relevant documentation regarding Europol’s powers and legislative reforms, critical analysis and research as well as tools for action.

By Resist Europol coalition (guest author) · May 6, 2024

Europol is the European Union Agency for law enforcement cooperation. In the past decade, its surveillance powers have been vastly extended, allowing the agency to collect and process ever more data. The Resist Europol coalition is an initiative that aims to document and contest the EU securitisation agenda, notably through Europol’s expansion and its impacts on the rule of law, human rights and marginalised communities.


  1. Introduction
  2. Who we are
  3. 2022 Reform
  4. 2023 Reform
  5. Exercise your right to access
  6. Europol’s Research & Development activities
  7. Europol’s internet content policing
  8. Europol’s role in the proposed “Chat control” Regulation
  9. Additional resources


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Europol is the European Union Agency for law enforcement cooperation. Its main mission is to support EU Member States’ law enforcement authorities in the detection and investigation of (theoretically) serious forms of crime, such as organised crime and terrorism. It does so by receiving, sharing and analysing information and data received from national police authorities, international organisations such as Interpol, countries outside the EU and private companies.

Europol’s powers have been constantly bolstered since its establishment as an EU body in 2009, with two substantial reforms in 2016 and 2022. Today the agency plays an increasing role in cross-border police activities and big operations. Its focus on information collection and processing contributes to anchoring a data-driven model of policing in Europe.

This means that surveillance and repression of individuals and organisations have intensified at the European level through the daily, extensive exchange of data among the agency and several European police and migration forces. The surveillance is amplified through the use of algorithmic systems, which are known to encode historical racist policing practices into data analysis.

This webpage gathers all the relevant documentation regarding Europol’s powers and legislative reforms, critical analysis and research as well as tools for action.

Who we are

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The Resist Europol coalition is an open group of activists, researchers, lawyers, journalists, prison and police abolitionists, civil society organisations and more with a shared concern of the expanding EU policies, practices and agenda driven by criminalisation, surveillance and punishment.

Our work is aimed at resisting the continued expansion of Europol, which is participating in the wider state and social structures of oppression responsible for the societal harms they claim to address. Our mission is to support the emergence and expansion of alternative practices that can lead to societies where all people and communities are met with care, live in safety and in dignity.

We do so by documenting and making visible Europol’s activities, powers and impacts on communities and people, by producing critical analysis of Europol’s mandate and role, its narrative and technological capabilities, and by standing in solidarity with communities affected and movements fighting against criminalisation and policing more broadly.

2022 Reform

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Despite concerns raised by civil society and academia, the EU legislators adopted a reform that largely expanded Europol’s mandate. Among others, Europol can process large and complex datasets for a long period of time, informally exchange personal data with private companies and carry out its own research and innovation projects, without there being sufficient democratic oversight or fundamental rights safeguards.

2023 Reform

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In November 2023, the European Commission announced a new so-called “migrant smuggling” framework, including a regulation aimed to reinforce Europol’s role by increasing inter-agency and third-country cooperation in the field. In essence, this reform expands Europol’s powers in relation to all crimes for which it is competent, not only “migrant smuggling”, and gives it investigative powers during joint operations with national police forces.

  • Proposal for a Regulation on enhancing police cooperation in relation to the prevention, detection and investigation of migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings, and on enhancing Europol’s support to preventing and combating such crimes and amending Regulation (EU) 2016/794
  • EDPS, Opinion 4/2024 on the Proposal for a Regulation on enhancing police cooperation in relation to the prevention, detection and investigation of migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings, 23 January 2024

Exercise your right to access

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The coalition created a guide for everyone who wishes to access personal data on them that is processed, or has been processed, by Europol. Access requests help us to understand the extent of the agency’s data collection and processing activities, and increase scrutiny.

We welcome feedback for continuous improvement of the guide. Please contact us if you make use of it and submit a request for personal data to Europol. This could greatly help us in improving our advocacy work.

Europol’s Research and Development activities

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Europol is seeking to become a key actor in the field of research and development for policing. The 2022 reform of Europol’s mandate gives the agency the power to process large datasets in the context of “research and innovation” projects, in particular the ones aiming to develop, train, test and validate algorithms for the development of law enforcement tools. It also gained a reinforced role in setting overall EU security research priorities, advising the European Commission in funds allocation.

For this purpose, Europol has established an Innovation Lab in late 2019, which aims at technology monitoring, managing R&D projects, and networking with national police authorities, industry and research institutions. Moreover, the Innovation Lab was tasked with coordinating the EU Innovation Hub for Internal Security, that was created on the instructions of the Council in 2019 and is composed of several EU agencies in the Justice and Home Affairs field, including Frontex. The Innovation Hub aims to monitor and develop new technological “solutions” (among others artificial intelligence tools) which are of cross-cutting relevance for Member States’ authorities in the field of law enforcement, border management, criminal justice and the security aspects of migration and customs. Current priorities for the Innovation Hub are artificial intelligence, including a European Security Data Space to pool data and train algorithms, encryption and quantum computing, drones, biometrics and virtual reality

Under the EU’s “Horizon 2020” framework research programme, Europol was already involved in the development of new technologies as partner of projects looking into the use of artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning and virtual and augmented reality for law enforcement purposes, namely AIDA, GRACE, INFINITY, PROTON and STARLIGHT. The Europol Regulation of 2022 excludes the agency from the funding streams of the new “Horizon Europe” framework research programme to avoid conflicts of interests that might arise from the agency’s new role to advise the Commission on research priorities, draft working programmes and support their implementation.

The coalition will monitor Europol’s activities in this field in the coming years.

Europol’s internet content policing

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Since 2015, Europol set up an Internet Referral Unit (IRU) tasked to flag “terrorist and violent extremist” content to online platforms (so-called “referrals” which are recommendations for take-down). The unit is also supposed to support Member States “with operational and strategic analysis.” There is no judicial involvement or oversight of this censorship activity. Europol’s IRU tries to draw the attention of websites and Internet Service Providers to potentially illegal activities that may breach commercial terms of service but they do not enforce the law, although the process interferes with people’s freedom of expression and of information.


Europol’s role in the proposed “Chat control” Regulation

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On 11 May 2022, the European Commission put forward a draft law that threatens the safety, security, privacy and free expression of internet users globally. The “Proposal for a Regulation laying down rules to prevent and combat child sexual abuse,” or CSAR, is a law mandating the monitoring and partial restriction of all public and private digital communications. Internet companies would be obligated to send detected content to a newly created EU Centre, who would then send it to Europol and national police. The draft law implicitly seeks to maximise the amount of information submitted to law enforcement and allow for its retention in Europol databases.

Additional Resources

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