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Germany

Germany's Ratzel Heads up Europol

Max-Peter Ratzel, formerly a high ranking official in Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Agency, has become the new director of the European Union’s police agency Europol.

Max-Peter Ratzel becomes Europe's top cop

Ratzel was previously a senior official at Germany's Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigation. His appointment broke a deadlock among the 25 EU member states, who last year could not agree on a new director for Europol.

The prolonged dispute over a new leader and reluctance among EU states to share intelligence has hamstrung the agency. Many are hoping that Ratzel will help boost the agency's role and make it more efficient. But who exactly is Ratzel?

Undercover investigations are his specialty, but in recent weeks Max-Peter Ratzel has been seeking out the spotlight. Among other things, the 56-year-old German would like to use it to get more publicity for the European police agency, Europol, whose work is largely unknown.

Experienced Ratzel knows the European ropes

The BKA headquarters in Wiesbaden

Ratzel is the former head of the "Organized and General Crime" unit of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Agency (BKA). From various overlapping projects, Ratzel is therefore quite familiar with Europol and its work.

"Europol is the sensible choice whenever I need to involve a third or fourth partner in bilateral consultations," Ratzel said recently. "With Europol I have the major advantage of having all these different states unified within a single entity, and I don't have to make four separate inquiries in four different countries."

Europol's focus on serious crime

Europol's primary task is to gather and analyze intelligence data from the EU's 25 member states, and then to channel the information to ongoing investigations. The focus these days is on organized crime, drugs, human trafficking and terrorism.

The BKA department under ratzel's control fought serious crime

Ratzel has a fair amount of experience in these issues from his work as a police official. His adversaries have included international criminal gangs. He admits that he himself has been in danger, and possibly continues to be. But Ratzel does not like to dwell on questions relating to his personal safety.

"I have already been in a number of dangerous situations in the past," he said. "And my new position also comes with an element of danger, which I do not underestimate, but which I also do not overestimate. Together with Europol security officials, we have already taken the necessary steps to implement the appropriate security measures."

A strong-willed man at the reins

Ratzel is known to be a man of few words, who approaches his work diligently and matter-of-factly. The trained mathematician worked his way up through the ranks of Germany's Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigations. His colleagues there considered him to be a strong-willed workaholic.

Now Ratzel is the head of Europol. So far he has not said much about his plans for this position. The EU's 25 member states are often defensive when they feel that Europol is infringing on the work of their own national law enforcement officials.

Europol Logo

For his part, Ratzel does not expect or demand any exclusive authority for Europol -- for example, Europol officers are not supposed to make arrests within member states. But Ratzel is urging that Europol's role not be limited merely to the collection and analysis of intelligence.

"Europol must make the transition from its former focus on strategic analysis to operational analysis," he said. "This operational analysis should serve to assist local police authorities in carrying out their investigations, and to also to lead the authorities in their investigations"

Long and damaging search comes to an end

Ratzel is the second German to head Europol. His appointment came after a year-long search for a replacement for former Europol chief, Jürgen Storbeck, whose term expired in 2004.

The delay resulted from a clash between France and Germany, which normally support each other in EU affairs, but which had each insisted that their own nominee was best suited to the job. Ratzel was finally chosen after the 25 EU interior and justice ministers meeting in Brussels said that he was their preferred candidate.

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