EU - Creation of para-military police units proposed to counter protests

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The German government has sent a proposal for the creation of "Special Units" to the EU "Heads of central bodies for public order and security" to counter protests at EU Council meetings and other international meetings.

On 6 August the German Minister of the Interior, Mr Otto Schilly, backed by Italian Interior Minister, Claudio Scajola, called for the creation of an EU anti-riot police in reaction to events in Gothenburg and Genoa. Mr Schilly said in an interview with the Sontag newspaper:

"We cannot allow violence from militant activists to dictate where and how democratically elected state leaders hold their meetings. [An anti-riot police] would cooperate internationally to de-escalate situations where possible and to combat violence with appropriate firmness where necessary."

Now, in a report dated 20 September, the German government has proposed to other EU states that, in response to "events in Gothenburg and Genoa", each should form and make available "special units" to implement:

"joint and harmonised measures against travelling offenders committing violent acts"

The proposal covers:

1. "the creation of common standards for the training and equipment of existing special units" in EU states

2. A common tactical framework "including a graded response system respecting the principle of proportionality (eg: separation of troublemakers from peaceful demonstrators)"

3. Basic and advanced training for "large-scale(emergency) situations" - thus linking protests and "emergencies"

4. "standard common equipment with command, control and operational means (eg: radios, weapons, special devices)"

and finally,

5. "the preconditions must be established to enable one Member State to request the support of special units from other Member States"

In summary this would mean that instead of creating a formal EU para-military public order police force there would be a system in place for the movement and deployment of existing specially trained national units to police public order situations (eg protests) in the host country. These units would have "weapons" and "special devices".

The record of the use of such para-military police units in the UK and elsewhere shows that it leads to more violent confrontations and the tendency to indiscriminately "punish" the people for being on the streets rather than arresting and charging people who have committed an offence.

It is clear that, after the events of 11 September in the US, the planning in the EU for Summit meetings and other international meetings embraces both the "threat" of terrorism and of protests. In contingency and emergency planning terms both "threats" concerning a specific meeting become one.

The legal basis for this "cooperation" is quite unclear. The German proposal alludes to the Joint Action on law and order and security of 26 May 1997 but as pointed out in a previous Statewatch report (The "enemy within" - EU plans for the surveillance of protestors and the criminalisation of protests) this only provides a legal basis for the exchange of information, not operational matters.

Tony Bunyan, editor of Statewatch comments:

"We are living in very dangerous times in many senses. The use of armed and specially trained para-military police units to counter protests in the EU will tend to escalate violence not diminish it. But, more importantly, it is part of a strategy to treat protestors as the same kind of "threat" as terrorists. This can only lead to a curtailment of the right of free movement and the democratic right to demonstrate."


ENFOPOL 96: "Special units to guarantee the safety of meetings of the European Council and other comparable events": Text (pdf) Text (Word 97)

Statewatch special report (pdf): The "enemy within" - EU plans for the surveillance of protestors and the criminalisation of protests

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