EU-USA JHA Senior Officials meeting 8-9 September 2016
- US offers to help with terrorist intelligence on "special interest aliens', irregularly migrating foreigners born in countries close to the crime-terrorism nexus"
- EU proposal to "impose temporary visa requirement for US nationals" went down like a lead balloon
- The US Judicial Redress Act would not come into effect until the "Umbrella Agreement" on the exchange of personal data is adopted
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The EU-US Justice and Home Affairs Senior Officials meeting in Bratislava on 8-9 September discussed counter-terrorism, migration, data protection and cyber security: See:
Outcome of the EU US Justice and Home Affairs Senior Officials Meeting, Bratislava, 8-9 September 2016 (LIMITE doc no: 12385-16, pdf)
The US side welcomed the excellent operational cooperation especially with Europol and said that "the number of US agents had increased". On sharing information they also suggested that "a first step could be to create joint investigation teams (JIT):
"As the threat was viewed by the US side as sufficiently grave, the US believed it was possible to move forward establishing JITs despite procedural concerns being voiced."
And concerning the TFTP [Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme]:
"both delegations expressed satisfaction with the tool for which the 4th joint review would be issued later this year. The US delegation offered to assist EU Member States with PNR and PNR capabilities, and 'off the shelf technology', the Automated Targeting System."
Migration and mobility
Two issues were discussed. First the "security" aspects of the refugee crisis:
"The US delegation applauded the efforts of EU Member States to cope with the difficult situation. The US side acknowledged their concern from a security perspective, in particular in terms of the 'special interest aliens', irregularly migrating foreigners born in countries close to the crime-terrorism nexus. The EMSC [Europol Migrant Smuggling Centre] was lauded as a very important partner for the US and much information on foreign fighters had been given to other EU institutions and agencies. The US had also offered access to the 'Security Real Time Platform' against which asylum seekers and migrants could be screened."
The second was the long-standing dispute between the EU and the USA on the latter's refusal to grant visa-free travel to its country for five Member States - which seems to be getting worse:
"the EU delegation emphasised the common goal to have visa-free travel for the remaining five Member States and expressed confidence that there were no security risks attached as ESTA screening would apply. The delegation noted the crucial turning point that the position of the European Parliament represented concerning the obligation for the Commission to adopt a delegated act to impose temporary visa requirement for US nationals. It inquired if any facilitation measures for the five Member States could be considered."
This idea went down like a "lead balloon":
"The US delegation shared the goal expressed by the EU side, but to achieve this required the continued existence of the Visa Waiver Programme which was viewed upon with strong scepticism at political level in the US. Even the 23 visa free Member States were now required to fulfil more obligations in terms of i.a. expanding information sharing and improving screening of travellers. A partial visa lift was politically and legally not possible. The US delegation underlined that a visa suspension for US citizens would not facilitate progress, rather the opposite."
The EU side said that progress had been made with the "the signature of the 'Umbrella Agreement" but:
'"the European Parliament consent was needed and efforts to achieve this required more work on both EU and US sides....
The US delegation underlined however, that the Judicial Redress Act would not come into play and be effective for any EU citizen until the European Parliament approved the 'Umbrella Agreement'. The US side did not find useful to provide more than the two explanatory memoranda already given but was open to work on other strands vis-à-vis the Parliament."
"The EU delegation highlighted recently adopted Council conclusions aiming at improving criminal justice in cyberspace for which further EU-US cooperation was necessary, including in the EU-US working group on cybersecurity and cybercrime....
The US delegation concurred that this critical and difficult issue should be faced collectively.... Remarks were made concerning the Microsoft decision rejecting a request for data stored overseas. It was viewed as very dangerous that evidence could be stored in different locations abroad or that it would remain unclear whether evidence existed at all, or just not in the US."
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