The EU state gears up for action: Internal Security Strategy and COSI

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The EU has been waiting for years to launch its Internal Security Strategy (ISS) and the Standing Committee on Internal Security (COSI) which will be responsible for developing it. Back in 2003 It was thought that the Lisbon Treaty would be well in place by now, instead the Lisbon Treaty and the Stockholm Programme have come into effect at the same time. What the ISS and COSI have in common is that they both form part of the matrix of the next stage of the growing European state.

Internal Security Strategy

At the beginning of February the Council Presidency put out a "Draft Internal Security Strategy for the EU: "Towards a European Security Model". (EU doc no: 5842/10)

What distinguishes the concept of an ISS from what has been in place since 1993 under the Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties is that it moves way beyond the idea that justice and home affairs simply covers the policy areas of policing, immigration and asylum and judicial cooperation.

"The concept of internal security must be understood as a wide and comprehensive concept which straddles multiple sectors"

Thus, internal security "must be seen as encompassing a wide range of measures" and:

"to reach an adequate level of internal security in a complex global environment requires the involvement of law-enforcement and border-management authorities, with the support of judicial cooperation, civil protection agencies and also of the political, economic, financial, social and private sectors, including non-governmental organisations."

Prevention and "anticipation"

The usual shopping list is presented for the widespread use of biometrics ("maximising the opportunities presented by biometric and other technologies"), EU PNR (Passenger Name Record), automated exit-entry systems, DNA and fingerprints. Much emphasis is also put on information exchange under the "principle of availability" (all data and intelligence held by one agency is available to all the others throughout the EU).

However, a new, dangerous, concept, originating in the EU Future Group report on justice and home affairs, is that of "anticipation". The Stockholm Programme has over twenty mentions of "prevention" but the concept of:

"prevention and anticipation" (emphasis added)

is spelt out in a section on the ISS which says it based on a "proactive and intelligence-led approach". One of the examples given is described as follows:

"Cooperation should therefore be sought with other sectors like schools, universities and other educational institutions, in order to prevent young people from turning to crime…. Civil society organisations can also play a role in running public awareness campaigns."

This could employ analytical tools and early-warning system to "anticipate" so:

"that we are not only prepared for the outcomes of future threats but also able to establish mechanisms to detect them and prevent their happening in the first place."

This concept of "anticipation" implies built-in scenarios or profiles of people or activities which would require state intervention well prior to the assumed "threat" moving anywhere near to reality. For example, a group of people might discuss far-reached ideas but this is a long way from actual planning and preparing to do anything about them.

What is covered by internal security?

The breadth of the EU concept of "internal security" can best be illustrated by listing some of the "threats"/areas mentioned (a list which will surely grow in the future):

- integrated border management
- law enforcement cooperation
- criminal justice systems
- civil protection/crisis management
- terrorism
- serious and organised crime
- drug trafficking,
- cyber crime
- trafficking in human beings
- sexual exploitation of minors and child pornography
- economic crime,
- corruption
- trafficking in arms
- natural and man-made disasters
- crime in general
- critical infrastructures
- document fraud
- money-laundering
- petty and property crime
- youth violence
- hooligan violence
- petty or property crime
- major international events (in public order/protests)
- football matches and sports events
and "road traffic accidents"

Protecting "Common values"

The underlying assumption throughout is that the EU has, and will, "balance" freedom and security, that there is a common commitment to "security, freedom and privacy" based the EU's internal security "protecting people and the values of freedom and democracy". This is summed up as constructing:

"an internal security strategy which reflects the values and priorities we all share"


"Europe must consolidate a security model, based on the principles and values of the Union: respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, democracy, dialogue, tolerance, transparency and solidarity."

These assumed principles and values are, however, contested by many who view the EU's development since 2001 as having nearly always favoured security over liberty, that respect for human rights is in no way reflected in its immigration and asylum policies and practices, that the rule of law has been bent or cast aside on numerous occasions, that democracy is simply viewed as having a vote (which only a minority use) every five years, that dialogue cannot take place if there is no transparency and openness in decision-making (ie: access to the documents under discussion) and that tolerance is a poor substitute for equality.

The Committee on Internal Security (COSI)

The idea of setting up COSI was in the very first drafts of the EU Constitution, drawn up in the wake of 11 September 2001, and this carried over into the Lisbon Treaty. With the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty the Council moved quickly to establish COSI with a Presidency Note of 22 October 2009 which was followed by a Draft Council Decision: Council Decision on setting up the Standing Committee on operational cooperation on internal security (EU doc no: 16515-09 and EU doc no: 5949-10)

Under the "Stockholm Programme" COSI is charged with:

"developing, monitoring and implementing the Internal Security Strategy"

In January 2010 the Spanish Council Presidency circulated a Note on the "Consequences of the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty: the COSI (EU doc no:5815/10). This opens by re-stating the Lisbon Treaty provision (Article 71):

"A standing Committee shall be set up within the Council in order to ensure that operational cooperation on internal security is promoted and strengthened within the Union. Without prejudice to Article 207, it shall facilitate coordination of the action of Member States' competent authorities. Representatives of the Union bodies, offices and agencies concerned may be involved in the proceedings of this committee. The European Parliament and national Parliaments shall be kept informed of proceedings."

- COSI's Scope and membership:

"will include police and customs cooperation, control and protection of external borders, and, where appropriate, judicial cooperation in criminal matters." (emphasis added)

The use of the term "include" indicates that a much broader scope is eventually intended.

Its tasks are to "ensure operational cooperation and coordination"; evaluate the "general direction" and recommend measures to address shortcomings. Further COSI is to ensure "stringent cooperation" between the agencies of the EU state involved with internal security such as Europol, Frontex, Eurojust, CEPOL and Sitcen.

COSI's membership is to be comprised of high-level officials from Member States Interior/Home Ministries with the agencies invited to attend as observers. It also to take over the role of the Police Chiefs Task Force as the management body for COSPOL (Comprehensive Operational Strategic Plan for Police). COSI is not going to have a legislative role but it will "advise" those drafting new measures to take "due account" of the operational needs of "all actors".

- Conclusion

COSI is going to be a very powerful body overseeing and directing operational actions on internal security across the EU. It should be accountable to the European parliament which should have an oversight role and its documents should be publicly accessible.

How much parliaments and people are going to know about its workings is not at all clear. On past practice the term "kept informed" could simply mean occasional documents and a bland annual report. The state and its agencies always try to argue that because "operational" matters are concerned secrecy is essential or operations would be compromised. But there is a big difference between policy decisions which should be public and detailed operational plans on the ground. Actual operational reports and assessments should be available after the event so that shortcomings and failures can be evaluated - the notion that parliaments and people should be kept ignorant of EU-wide operations organised by COSI is quite unacceptable.

Crucially all of its policy decisions to undertake EU-wide operational actions should be public, so too should post-operation reports and assessments of shortcomings or failures.

EU state agencies and bodies

Plans are being discussed for agencies and bodies to be able to exchange classified information (EUCI) with non-EU states and international bodies: (EU doc no: 5524/10). The is a disagreement over whether this can be effected by a simple administrative arrangement or whether a formal Security Information Agreement between the two parties has to precede this.

However, it is interesting to note that as yet the Council has not sought to effect the obligations under the Lisbon Treaty whereby all EU state agencies and bodies are now brought within the EU Regulation on access to public documents which will mean - when the Council adopts a Decision - they will, for a start, have to put online a pubic register of their documents (Article 11).

Moves to ensure the "stringent" cooperation between EU state agencies is already underway, see Interim Report on cooperation between JHA agencies to be sent to COSI in April (EU doc no: 5816/10). At present there are a series of agreements between CEPOL (European Police College), Eurojust, Europol and Frontex: "Strategic cooperation agreement", reports, threat assessments and best practice, excluding personal information and "Operational cooperation agreements" which "allow for the exchange of all kinds of information". There are also developed "cooperation agreements with SITCEN (Joint Situation Centre: intelligence-gathering)and OLAF.

Primary cooperation is between the five major agencies (and no doubt in time the IT agency to be set up to run major EU databases). The report shows that a plethora of other bodies and sub-groups are also involved: European Police Chiefs Task Force (EPCTF), Heads of Europol National Units (HENUs), Joint Investigation Teams (JITs) Network Secretariat, JHA Heads of Agencies Meeting, European Aviation Suppliers Organisation and eventually the European External Action Service.

Tony Bunyan, 12 February 2010

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