Parliamentary control of Europol: challenges of collective access to information

Parliamentary control of security policies uncovers an apparent paradox: it relies on the sharing of information that is strictly put under executive dominance not to harm the essential security interests.

This issue is gaining renewed interest at European level after the establishment of the Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group (JPSG) on Europol. Access to sensitive non-classified or classified information retained by Europol for purposes of parliamentary control is shaped asymmetrically: pursuant to art. 52 Reg. EU 2016/794, it is explicitly recognised only to the EP, but not to the JPSG.

Based on a vision of parliamentary control of EU security policy as a shared task both of national parliaments and of the EP, the proposed paper discusses two alternative legal solutions. One addresses the EP’s legal duty to share this information within the JPSG. Another solution relates to the mediated access to information through national mechanisms of parliamentary control of Europol activity.

Parliamentary oversight between security exceptions and executive confidentiality

Parliamentary oversight requires accessibility of information. In foreign and security policy however, executive institutions have possession and discretion over (sensitive) information. Practice shows that oversight at times is not activated at all due to ‘deep secrets’, i.e. parliaments are unaware of certain executive action or its scope (the case with the PRISM programme and U.S. Congress), or information is limited to such extent that it impacts the capacity of parliaments to exercise control (the European Parliament regarding the SWIFT Agreement). This paper shows the dynamic and continuous process of adjustment of powers between parliaments and executive institutions in access to information. The paper argues that often accessibility to information becomes the main point of contention, curtailing institutional resources and detracting from debates on policy issues.

National parliaments and information asymmetries in the European Semester

This paper analyses information asymmetries in relevant procedures in the European Semester. The paper seeks to map the consequences for parliaments' standing and provide a contribution on the role of parliaments for checks of executive institutions in issues of finance in light of the many changes driven by the economic and financial crisis. Several measures were adopted to strengthen the European Economic and Monetary Union and to better coordinate European Union Member States fiscal and economic policies. One of these measures is the European Semester in which framework Member States interact with the Commission to guarantee sound public finances. Consequently, national budgetary authorities now operate in a more constrained framework. In particular, national parliaments' “power of the purse” has been affected as they are not always sufficiently informed and involved in these Euro-national procedures.