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The network paradigm in criminal justice: an exploratory mixed methods study of the barriers to its integration into Europol’s analysis environment

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

This doctoral thesis examined the paradoxically difficult integration of Social Network Analysis (SNA), as a principal analytical approach, in the supranational intelligence and law enforcement environment of Europol. This real-world problem was systematically investigated with the use of an exploratory mixed methods design. Initially, a questionnaire survey, focussing on the perceptions of the whole population of Europol’s operational analysts (N=77) and achieving a high response rate of 75% (n=58), helped identify key barriers to SNA integration. Thereafter, in-depth thematic analysis of five semi-structured interviews contributed to better understanding of the identified barriers. Lastly, a topical literature review facilitated the theoretical application of empirical results.

In this way, the study traced the possible causes of the research problem and shed light into the highly constrained operational role of Europol making two important theoretical contributions: the “basic work phenomenon” and the “input (procedural) legitimacy-innovation” hypothesis. Specifically, it was found that Europol’s transformation into an EU Agency in 2010 – with a “light” criminal information role and a preoccupation with elementary intelligence production and input (procedural) legitimacy gains – actually weakened its epistemic authority and output legitimacy, impeding the integration of the innovative network paradigm. Alternative explanations, such as Europol analysts’ anti-epistemic inclinations and resistance to change, did not account for the magnitude of the observed phenomenon.

The thesis fills an empirical and theoretical gap in extant literature on EU Agency governance and furthers understanding of the inner workings of Europol. Based on novel and quite informative evidence, the study argues that the dominance of Eurosceptic views and national sovereignty concerns has raised high political and bureau-political barriers sidelining Europhile orientations in the sensitive area of EU law enforcement cooperation. The
findings suggest that the main policy challenge for this EU Agency is to find a better balance between its political and epistemic authority and input (procedural) and output legitimacy.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award dateJul 2015

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