EU: “Anti-terrorism” legitimises sweeping new “internal security” complex



In June 2004 Javier Solana, the EU High Representative for defence and foreign policy, announced that internal security services (eg: MI5 in the UK) are to provide intelligence on terrorism to the Joint Situation Centre (SitCen) - part of the EU’s emerging military structure. At the same time he revealed that the external intelligence agencies (eg: MI6 and GCHQ in the UK) had been cooperating with SitCen since "early 2002". These moves were clearly needed as attempts to bring together meaningful intelligence on terrorism through Europol was doomed to fail - internal security and external intelligence agencies are loath to share information with police agencies. However sensible this initiative may be it still begs the question of accountability and scrutiny. It would be almost inconceivable at the national level for a body whose role was military to have its remit extended "at a stroke" to include anti-terrorism without a formal procedure being undertaken - and to ensure that a chain of accountability and scrutiny both to government and parliament was set out.

SitCen's job is to produce assessment reports on "the terrorist threat (internal and external)" but it is also to provide reports that cover:

"the broad range of internal security and survey the fields of activity of services in the areas of intelligence, security, investigation, border surveillance and crisis management" (Dutch Presidency Note to the Informal Meeting of the JHA Council in October, unpublished doc no: 12685/04)

"Anti-terrorism" is itself problematic. It embraces at the national level raids on Muslim communities (see Statewatch, vol 13 no 6), “stop and search” operations, and an EU initiative on "radicalism and recruitment" which will target communities and places of worship and education.

The overall concept has, however, swiftly shifted from dealing solely with "anti-terrorism" to "internal security" which embraces all the agencies of the state from the military to the host of agencies who maintain "law and order", from biometric passports to border controls. It is the same in the draft "Hague Programme" on justice and home affairs (the successor to the "Tampere programme"), which refers to internal security as covering: “national security and public order”.

SitCen will send "advisory reports" to the Justice and Home Affairs Council, reporting "any necessary action", and will cooperate with a host of JHA bodies, including the Strategic Committee on Immigration and Frontiers and Asylum (SCIFA) and the Article 36 Committee (CATS, senior national interior ministry officials), and representatives from the Commission, Europol, Eurojust, the European Border Agency (EBA), the Police Chiefs' Task Force, the Counter Terrorism Group (CTG) and a new "internal crisis management" working party.

Under the EU Constitution, SitCen will also report to an "Internal Security Committee" (Article III-261) which will deal with "operational cooperation on internal security". An ad hoc "Internal Security Committee", comprised of the chairpersons of the JHA bodies above, is to be set-up in the near future, before the Constitution comes into force. Under Article III-261, the European and national parliaments will only be kept "informed" of the new committee’s activities - which on past experience will be bland, general reports. There is no guarantee that documents from this Committee will be accessible and little prospect of the interim, ad hoc Committee being accountable.

The EU Police Chief’s operational Task Force, which was set-up in 1999, still has no legal basis for its activities and the EU Border Police is developing in the same ad hoc fashion. Before the Regulation establishing an EU Border Management Agency had even been agreed the EU had established a ‘Common Unit’ of senior border police, operational centres on sea, land and air borders, and a ‘risk analysis centre’. Now, before the Regulation has even entered into force (1 May 2005), a broad expansion of the agency’s remit and powers is planned. First, through the creation of a "rapid reaction force of experts" available to "temporarily" increase "external border control capacity" (including "intercepting and rescuing illegal immigrants at sea"). Second, through the creation of a "common European border police corps". Third, consideration of whether it should assume a wider roles for "security, customs" as well as:

"the management of large information systems (such as Eurodac, VIS and SIS II)"
(Dutch Presidency Note to the Informal Meeting of the JHA Council in October, unpublished doc no: 12714/04)

(This article first appeared in Statewatch bulletin, vol 14 no 5 August-October 2004)


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