In May, colleagues Vera Huijgens and Insa Männel participated in Stockholm in the full-network meeting of the European Network on the Administrative Approach (ENAA), an organisation with the aim of stimulating and facilitating a network in the administrative approach against organized crime. Since its foundation, the ENAA developed into a network of ‘National Contact Points’ who can connect with enforcement agencies, governments, administrative bodies and academics in their home countries. Present at the meeting, in addition to the EURIEC, were almost all National Contact Points, and a representative of the European Commission and EUROPOL.
With a presentation on the findings of four years of cross-border information exchange for the administrative approach to organised crime, the EURIEC gave a brief glimpse of the lessons learned through practice. After all, the EURIEC is the only trilateral facility within Europe that provides support in cross-border administrative casework. This provides the necessary knowledge and experience. Knowledge, on the one hand about the legal possibilities and impossibilities of information exchange, and on the other hand about issues related to cooperation and informbation exchange: differences in professional terms, competences, language and culture.
Periodic network meetings like these are of great importance, as they facilitate cooperation between member states and because they provide an platform where member states can learn from each other. Knowledge and experience can be exchanged in a low-threshold way, making it easier to pick up the phone or call for a digital meeting later to continue learning. The network also discusses issues that require further investigation or elaboration. In addition to the learning points that EURIEC shared with all member states, we identified what steps we believe still need to be taken to take cross-border information exchange a step further.
A key lesson is that the term ‘administrative approach’ is still interpreted differently in different countries. The question is whether the administrative approach is about the (systematic) use of the authorities’ powers against organised crime, or whether it is about, for example, the revocation of licences, not being allowed to participate in public tenders, etc.; irrespective of who makes the decision. The same applies to terms like ‘administrative information’ and ‘police information’. In the case of the latter: does that refer to information held by the police, or is it information that would, for instance, in the Netherlands fall under the Police Data Act? This still needs further exploration. Of course, we also got to know ENAA’s working methods and their projects better for the time ahead. As a result, we have a better view of potential cooperation in the future.
As a next step, an intention was expressed to start answering the above question, about the term police information. It should also be investigated how to deal in an international context when one wishes to exchange information that is administrative information in one country but police information in another.