How to strengthen EU-Interpol cooperation 

At a time when criminals regularly operate at international and cross-jurisdictional levels, the EU must develop deeper institutional ties with Interpol, argues Jadwiga Wiśniewska
Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France | Photo: Alamy

By Jadwiga Wisniewska

Jadwiga Wisniewska (PL, ECR) is the LIBE rapporteur regarding recommendations on the negotiations for a cooperation agreement between the EU and ICPO-INTERPOL

30 Aug 2022

As an intergovernmental organisation, Interpol comprises 195 member countries and facilitates international police cooperation. It is the world’s largest organisation of its kind and already cooperates with the European Union on several matters of joint interest, sharing resources and expertise. More specifically, Interpol is the EU’s key partner in the field of external security, preventing irregular migration, countering terrorism and fighting organised crime. 

Nowadays, terrorism and organised crime are two of the most serious global security challenges: criminals operate regularly at international and cross-jurisdictional levels. This requires a robust response and deeper cooperation with Interpol, so as to build a bridge between the EU and international law enforcement communities. Such cooperation would help to bolster security and create the necessary framework to tackle international crime. 

The EU is already working together with Interpol. However, there are still areas where this collaboration can be tightened and, above all, formalised, as Interpol has not yet signed a cooperation agreement with the EU. In April 2021, the European Commission adopted a recommendation for a Council decision authorising the opening of negotiations with Interpol. As the European Parliament is a co-legislator in the consent procedure, an own-initiative report setting out the guidelines for the negotiations is being prepared in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee. 

Interpol’s 19 databases contain valuable information and data that are directly accessible by EU Member States as member countries of Interpol but not by EU agencies.

The 2020 EU Security Union Strategy calls on Member States to step up cooperation between the EU and Interpol. What are the most important elements that would help make this cooperation more efficient? Signing an agreement granting EU agencies direct controlled access to Interpol’s databases is key. Interpol’s 19 databases contain valuable information and data that are directly accessible by EU Member States as member countries of Interpol but not by EU agencies. Practice has shown that there is great potential and a need to improve, speed up and streamline the exchange of this data. This would be to the benefit of Europol, Frontex, Eurojust and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) and would facilitate carrying out their tasks in line with respective mandates.  

It is also important to tackle the misuse of Interpol’s red notices, which are requests to have a person arrested. There is ample evidence pointing to the abuse and exploitation of this procedure by countries looking to persecute, silence and repress opponents abroad. Therefore, it’s necessary to establish a tool to detect politically motivated red notice requests. Surely, all this should be done in full compliance with the EU’s data protection requirements. 

The EU-Interpol agreement has a large scope, but we should also be mindful of the current geopolitical situation, namely Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified aggression towards Ukraine. The Russian Federation is one of Interpol’s member countries. There is, however, clear evidence of Russia’s multiple breaches of international law, as well as proof of its war crimes inflicted upon Ukrainian civilians. Law enforcement cooperation is based on trust, and this trust must be maintained. That is why I strongly believe that Interpol should take immediate and decisive measures to exclude the Russian Federation from the organisation.