December 15, 2016 / 9:36 AM / 8 months ago

EU, Denmark find deal on Europol after Danes voted to quit

EU Council President Donald Tusk, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (L-R) take part in a meeting regarding Europol in Brussels, Belgium December 15, 2016.Virginia Mayo/Pool

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union and Denmark have found a way to share data vital to counter-terrorism and crime fighting after Danes voted to leave Europe's police agency Europol, the EU said on Thursday.

The Nordic country last December rejected a government proposal for new laws needed to keep the country inside Europol when the agency's status changes in May.

Since then, Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen has sought a compromise to maintain some police cooperation with the EU and access to Europol's database, crucial to acquiring information from other EU police forces.

EU leaders Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk said in a joint statement with Rasmussen on Thursday they had agreed on the need for operational arrangements to minimise the negative impact of Denmark's departure in May.

The statement confirms what two EU sources had told Reuters on Wednesday.

"Such arrangements must be Denmark-specific, and not in any way equal full membership of Europol," the joint statement said. "However, it should ensure a sufficient level of operational cooperation including exchange of relevant data."

The deal allows Denmark to request data from a Europol agent as long as it remains a member of the border-free Schengen area.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz described the deal as a sticking plaster. "It is a solution for the time being," he told reporters.

Amid fears a backdoor deal with Denmark would set a precedent for Britain's negotiations to leave the EU, some lawmakers have warned they would weigh in on the deal.

"A Europol agreement with Denmark cannot be taken for granted," Manfred Weber, the head of the European Parliament's biggest political group, the European People's Party, said.

"A backroom deal that would bypass the Danish referendum result is not an option," he said. "We in the European Parliament will not endorse cherry-picking."

Europol, which has 28 member states, cooperates on policing matters with 12 others, including Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.

Despite the June 23 Brexit vote, Britain decided to remain part of Europol after the organization's status changes in what was to be a procedural change in May.

Reporting by Teis Jensen in Copenhagen and Alissa de Carbonnel in Brussels; Additional reporting by Annabella Pultz Nielsen in Copenhagen; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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