Statewatch News online: Doubts on EU Presidency proposal to target protestors as "terrorists"

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Doubts on EU Presidency proposal to target protestors as "terrorists"

The Spanish Presidency of the EU proposed, in a report dated 29 January, that law enforcement and intelligence agencies should exchange information on "terrorist incidents" to combat the increase of:

"various European Union summits and other events, in violence and criminal damage orchestrated by radical extremist groups, clearly terrorising society"

However, at the meeting of the EU's Working Party on Terrorism on 4 February:

"Various delegations insisted that public order incidents are not always terrorist related. A clear distinction should be made. Incidents at the G7 Summit in Genoa were not caused by terrorists."

The Presidency "promised it would reflect on the text".

It seems that other member states were not keen to see the post 11 September system for the notification of incidents and intelligence on real terrorist threats mixed up with messages on the activities of protestors and protest groups from across the EU.

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor comments:

"This seems to be a case of a "maverick" EU Presidency trying to get through a new measure based on its own perception of "terrorism" which extends to cover protestors and public order.

However, the fact that this particular initiative appears to have been put on hold does not detract from the fact that the EU already has in place an extensive plan - agreed on 13 July 2001 - to place protest and protestors under surveillance, that plans are underway to bring together all the para-military police units from EU states to "police" future protests at EU Summit and other international meetings and that there is a proposal on the table to create a database on the Schengen Information System of suspected "troublemakers"/protestors"

The Spanish Presidency proposal said that these "incidents" are:

"the work of a loose network, hiding behind various social fronts, by which we mean organisations taking advantage of their lawful status to aid and abet the achievement of terrorist groups' aims."

And went on to propose that the Council of the European Union should introduce "a standard form for exchanging information on terrorist incidents" as this would be very helpful in:

"prosecuting violent urban youthful radicalism, which is increasingly being used as a cat's paw by terrorist groups in order to achieve their criminal aims"

The information would be exchanged between agencies in EU member states dealing with combating "terrorism" using the secure BDL network.

The Presidency proposal was presented to the Working Party on Terrorism meeting in Brussels on 4 February. The Working Party is comprised of officials and officers from the law enforcement agencies and internal security agencies responsible for combating terrorism. However, as there is already in place a "standard form" and procedure to report and coordinate information and intelligence on real terrorist incidents (see below), the proposal of the Spanish Presidency can only be seen as seeking to get the backing of other member states to extend terrorist reporting/intelligence to protests and normal democratic activity.

Standard form already agreed?

What is extraordinary about the Presidency proposal is that the same working party has already agreed on a standard form to exchange information on terrorism in a series of meetings last year.

On 17 September 2001 the working party agreed that, after the attacks in the USA, there should be the "rapid exchange of information exchanges on terrorist attacks". A standard form was agreed which was to be sent through the BDL network (see doc.10524/5/01 below).

The proposal was then incorporated in the "Action Plan on Terrorism" (see: Observatory) as point 27: "Systematic transmission to Europol of any piece of data relevant to terrorism" which now covers not just terrorist incidents but all ongoing intelligence data.

The discussions in the working party on the standard form largely took place before 11 September and were clearly concerned with real "terrorism" and not protests and protestors. Indeed one of the key discussions in the working party was whether or not to explicitly refer to "Terrorist bombings or attempted bombings" or simply to any "bombing or attempted bombing" (which would automatically be assumed to be "terrorist"). There were six versions of the report and in an unpublished (REV 4) report this issue is clearly confronted by a number of EU member states who want the proposal clearly limited to "Terrorist bombings or attempted bombings" - the final version adopted this view.

Six categories of terrorist activity are listed as qualifying for inclusion provided they met one of two criteria:

"2.4.10  The incident is of international significance, either because the target (person or building etc) is foreign (eg an embassy) or because the claim emanates from a foreign group"

or that the "incident is serious" where there are a large number of victims or significant damage".

EU crime prevention experts discuss combating protests

A further example of targeting of protestors is provided in an obscure EU report from the "sub-workgroup EUCPN JAI 82" (see document 14917/01 below). This new acronym refers to the EU Crime Prevention Network (EUCPN) and "JAI 82" refers to the Conclusions, agreed on 13 July 2001, by a specially convened meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council to lay down extensive plans to place protest and protestors under surveillance: see Statewatch report

This report covers the first meeting of the new group on 27 November 2001 in Ostend, which was called by the Belgian Presidency of the EU, and attended by Finland and the European Commission. It says the the Network should exchange information to "prevent violence during mass events and high-level meetings" and that is next meeting will discuss "youth culture and riot culture".


1. Spanish Presidency proposal: Presentation of a Presidency initiative for the introduction of a standard form for exchanging information on terrorist incidents: 5712/02

2. Rapid information exchange on terrorist attacks: 10524/5/01

3. Conclusions of the sub-workgroup EUCPN JAI 82 Ostend, Belgium, 27 November 2001: 14917/01

4. Plan to set up database on the SIS on "protestors": Statewatch report

5. For documentation on post-Genoa plans see: Statewatch: Observatory on EU plans to combat protest

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