Secrecy profoundly challenges democratic oversight. Law enforcement cooperation, however, requires some space for discretion and confidentiality. This classical paradox within the context of the European Union is central in the current legislative debate on Europol's revision. The reform is initiated by the Commission's proposal in March 2013 and, for the first time in its history, the European Parliament has direct power to decide over the future of the intelligence agency.
This article argues that we should not overestimate European Parliament's post-Lisbon prerogative for oversight, and particularly its access to Europol Classified Information, due to the architecture of intelligence exchange. The foundational principle of intelligence cooperation confers absolute discretion to the originators of information and Europol's “secrets” in almost all cases originate from the member states or third parties.
The article offers a new legal and empirical perspective on the tensions of secrecy and oversight in the EU, and especially in the Area of Freedom Security and Justice. It discusses the internal information structure of Europol and suggests options for more plausible oversight arrangements.