It is a great pleasure to be here again, and even more so with the new Executive Director Catherine De Bolle.
It's an even greater pleasure to see how Europol has developed over the past three years, together with our overall security policy.
Growing from a loose intergovernmental structure into an EU agency.
Transformed with a strong legal mandate in 2017.
Reinforced many times in human, technical and financial resources, Europol is now a vital part of our work to build a genuine and effective Security Union in Europe.
Today I saw the indispensable operational work of three key centres in this house: the European Counter Terrorism Centre, the European Cybercrime Centre and the European Migrant Smuggling Centre.
Indispensable – because Europol's work is essential not just for our work on security, but also for our work in many other areas, including better border management and fighting irregular migration.
Europol is the European Union at its best: cooperation, trust and sharing.
Since the very moment that I took office, I promoted the importance of Europol and the need to work with and through its instruments and people.
This is the reason why I insisted so many times and with success that Europol has to have the necessary financial and human resources.
I am glad to see this increase, but also the increase in trust by Member States, cooperating more and more with Europol.
When back in 2015 we had the first major terrorist attacks in Europe, the operational demand for Europol services and support were immediate.
Europol was an essential part of the operational follow-up at European level.
Numbers here speak volumes: from 127 counter-terrorism operations supported by Europol in 2016, we jumped to 458 in 2017: an increase of 260%.
Europol plays a crucial role in all security-related actions and efforts in Europe: whether it is the guest officers in hotspots in Greece and Italy performing secondary security checks,its efforts in coordinating counter smuggling efforts, or its instrumental work through the Internet Referral Unit to reduce terrorist content online.
Europol's new tasks and capabilities will also have access to central bank registers, the new and reinforced Schengen Information System, the Entry/Exit System, and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System, thereby contributing to the interoperability of all our information systems.
Europol is also involved in the new Crime Information Cell aboard Operation Sophia in the Central Mediterranean.
In other words, Europol has been increasingly breaking down barriers and silos throughout its many operations over the past years, for the sake of the security of our citizens. But this security does not stop at our borders.
Europol is a trusted partner for law enforcement authorities all over the world, having many operational agreements with international partners.
Soon we will start negotiating information sharing agreements with authorities in Turkey, Israel, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan.
Our work in the Western Balkans will also broaden and deepen, with liaison officers deployed on the ground later this year.
I have no doubt that Europol will only continue to further ascertain its role as a crucial security player on both the European and global arena.
I am proud to be the European Commissioner responsible for Europol, but most importantly to be working together with Europol on all these important issues.