19 July 2016
Opening Remarks by Minister of State David Stanton TD
Exercise by the State of the option under Article 4 of Protocol No. 21 annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union in respect of EU Regulation 2015/2219 on CEPOL
A Cathaoirleach, I am very pleased to come to this House today to present this motion. It gives me an opportunity to describe the service provided by CEPOL and highlight the benefit it brings to An Garda Síochána.
As Senators are aware, CEPOL is the European police college which was established in 2005. It brings together senior police officers from across the EU and aims to encourage cross-border co-operation in the fight against crime and the maintenance of public security and law and order through training and exchange programmes and the sharing of research and best practice.
Since 2005, An Garda Síochána has played an important part in CEPOL EU Training by organising courses in the Garda College for participants from EU Member States to attend. These include training programmes on language development, human rights, community policing, confiscation of assets and counterfeit medicines. The expertise of members of An Garda Síochána has proven beneficial to CEPOL programmes through their involvement in training programmes in other Member States on a wide variety of policing topics including management, public order and crowd management, Schengen, counterfeit goods, organised crime and drugs issues. In more recent times, CEPOL has provided training programmes to address emerging policing and security issues such as fundamentalism and immigration.
As a result, CEPOL has been successful in terms of developing the talents of our Garda Síochána and their ability to network and co-operate with other European counterparts. As we can see from the almost daily terrorist attacks which have begun to define the world we live in, terrorism and organised crime are emerging and constantly changing form and means. The sharing of good practice, prevention techniques and use of modern tools to address these threats are vital in our efforts to protect citizens and combat crime.
The new CEPOL Regulation, which replaced the 2005 Council Decision, was introduced to enhance CEPOL’s operational mandate and reforms its governance in line with general principles laid down in the Lisbon Treaty. The general aim of the Regulation is to improve EU security through the implementation by CEPOL of a new training approach for EU law enforcement officers consistent with evolving priorities for operational law enforcement cooperation. Moreover, the Regulation has widened the target group of law enforcement officials that CEPOL should serve as well as expanding its research function and association with relevant bodies.
The Regulation was drafted on the basis of the EU Commission’s Communication on the Law Enforcement Training Scheme known as the LETS. The LETS aims to make the EU’s response to common security challenges more effective, to raise the standard of policing across the EU and to stimulate the development of a common law enforcement culture as a means of enhancing mutual trust and cooperation.
In this regard, the Regulation identifies and addresses gaps in existing law enforcement training on cross-border matters by supporting and, where appropriate, coordinating the delivery of training by European and national centres of excellence. The Regulation provides CEPOL with the appropriate legal mandate and necessary resources to implement the training effort envisaged in the Communication.
In addition, the scope of CEPOL’s mandate is broadened so that it can support, develop, deliver and coordinate learning activities for law enforcement officials of all ranks, not only police officers of senior rank as is the case under the old CEPOL Decision, as well as to officers of customs and of other relevant services dealing with cross-border issues. This means if we opt-in our customs officials will also be able to benefit from the training provided.
Perhaps equally as valuable, the Regulation ensures that the Agency remains network-based, bringing together the network of training institutes of the Member States for the law enforcement officials and liaising with a single National unit in each Member State. This, as I’m sure Senators will appreciate, will allow An Garda Síochána to continue to build networks of counterparts in other EU jurisdictions which can be used for other operational intelligence sharing outside of the CEPOL framework.
Furthermore, the core objectives of CEPOL were updated and clarified so that the Agency may improve awareness and knowledge of International and European Union instruments, the institutions, agencies and bodies of the European Union. It will now also encourage the development of the regional or bilateral cooperation among the Member States and address specific criminal or policing thematic areas where training at EU level can add value in addition to the national level.
In summary, the Regulation expands and provides clarity on the role of CEPOL and improves governance in the management, accountability and procedures for the CEPOL Secretariat and the Member States involved in police training.
For all these reasons, I hope you can agree that Ireland’s participation in the Regulation, will be of tremendous value to An Garda Síochána and our customs service. It will also send a clear message that Ireland continues to support CEPOL and values the service it provides. The Regulation came into effect on 1 July 2016 and Ireland is now no longer involved in the college because we have yet to signal our desire to participate.
Senators will be mindful of the importance of training for our law enforcement agencies. The Garda Inspectorate in its report on the future of policing in Ireland from 2007, indicated that historically Police Services have dedicated substantial resources to recruit training but did not invest appropriately in the long-term professional development of personnel. Indeed the recently published Garda Síochána Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016-2021 identifies Training and Development as a key requirement in developing a modern, efficient police service. It stresses that training is critical to the success of the modernisation programme. CEPOL can continue to provide a valuable service in this regard.
To conclude, I strongly believe that continued participation in CEPOL will provide huge benefit to An Garda Síochána and customs at no cost to the Irish Exchequer.
Senators, for all of these reasons I invite you to support the motion before you which will allow Ireland to opt-in to the new CEPOL Regulation. By doing so we will allow our Police Force to continue to benefit from the invaluable training provided by CEPOL and to learn from and engage with other European partners to assist in the fight against crime.