Denmark is no longer a member of EU law enforcement agency Europol as of yesterday (1 May) but will retain access to its databases thanks to an eleventh hour agreement.
Europol’s new mandate started yesterday and is governed by a new regulation, long in the making, granting it extended powers to fight terrorism and cybercrime, as well as other forms of cross-border crime.
The new regulation lead Denmark to hold a referendum in December 2015 on whether the country should remain a part of the agency. 53% of Danes voted against changing Denmark’s opt-out on justice and home affairs matters, granted when Copenhagen ratified the 1992 Maastricht Treaty.
Denmark therefore signed a new cooperation agreement on Saturday (29 April), ensuring it retains round-the-clock access to police databases and participates in information sharing.
The Danish government and the European institutions began working on a new arrangement once it became clear Denmark would leave Europol. The European and Danish parliaments only signed off on the deal on Thursday (27 April).
Denmark will hold the status of observer state and be permitted to participate in high-level meetings, albeit without voting rights. Danish authorities will also not have to justify why they want to access information, unlike other third-party countries.
European Commissioners for Home Affairs and Security Dimitris Avramopoulos and Julian King said in a statement that the deal “is a tailor-made arrangement allowing for a sufficient level of cooperation”, as well as highlighting Denmark’s “unique status”.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who took office six months before the 2015 referendum, said in December 2016 that Denmark had voted to throw away “the keys to the main door to Europol” and that his government would try and find a way through “the back door”.
The EU executive will review the new arrangement in 2020, which is dependent on Denmark remaining an EU and Schengen area member.
Denmark’s opt-out is similar to the United Kingdom’s but in November 2016 British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that Britain would opt-in to the new Europol rules.
The UK is pushing to retain its leading role in the police agency after Brexit, however Home Secretary Amber Rudd acknowledged in March that Britain would “likely” leave too. The current director, Rob Wainwright, is British.
Headquartered in The Hague, Europol was set up in October 1998 and gained full EU agency status in January 2010.