EU: HQ of the Atlas Network's 38 Special Intervention Units to be based at Europol

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HQ of the Atlas Network's 38 Special Intervention Units to be based at Europol
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A Report from the Council Presidency, dated 16 November 2017: Draft Council Conclusions on the strengthening of the ATLAS Network (LIMITE doc no: 12583-REV-5-17, pdf) seeks amongst other things to create a permanent ATLAS Support Office based at Europol [1] and:

"besides the creation of a permanent ASO, the operational capacity of the Network could also benefit from improvements in other areas, such as:

- mapping of the specific capabilities of the participating SIUs (taking into account that this would require a high level of protection of sensitive information and that the SIUs should agree on the extent of the information to be shared);

- enhancement of the response-time mechanism for providing cross-border assistance between SIUs;

- allowing for a faster and more efficient cross-border movement of SIUs;

- pooling of specialized equipment where appropriate and technically possible;

- standardizing the communication protocols within the Network;

- setting-up common training facilities, acting as a centres of excellence, so as to foster a common level of high operational capabilities of the participating SIUs;

- ensuring closer cooperation, linkage and possible synergies between the work of ATLAS,EU Agencies (Europol and CEPOL) and specialised law enforcement networks (e.g.EEODN);

NOTING that the possibility to use ATLAS SIUs in training and capability development in EU CSDP Missions abroad should be explored."
[emphasis added]

The Atlas Network

The Network is comprised of: "38 SIUs [Special Intervention Units) from 28 Member States and Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. Norway, Iceland and Switzerland participate but have no voting rights." It appears that the Network involves 28 MS of the EU plus 4 EFTA states and applicant countries, see: Kosovo: Special Intervention Unit – SIU (Spec Ops Magazine, link)

A previous document: Working Party on Terrorism and Law Enforcement Working Party: Subject: Strengthening the ATLAS Network (LIMITE doc no: 11828-17, pdf) stated that:

"As one of the main objectives of the ATLAS Network is rapid response to crisis situations, terror incidents in particular, and international cooperation, we propose involving both the Terrorism Working Party (TWP) and the Law Enforcement Working Party (LEWP) in this discussion. Bringing the issue to the attention of both LEWP and TWP is logical, since it is important to highlight the role of the ATLAS Network not only as law enforcement format, but also in the context of countering terrorism."[emphasis added].

The 16 November report that:

"the Special Intervention Units (SIUs) of the Member States may be called to intervene in a variety of situations not necessarily linked to terrorism."


"that under current administrative arrangements, the management of the Network's activities relies mainly on the capacity of the ATLAS Executive Bureau (AEB), provided by the country holding the ATLAS Presidency, which puts a significant strain to the core activities of its SIU,

CONSIDERING that the Network would thus greatly benefit from the creation of a permanent ATLAS Support Office (ASO)"

The establishment of a "permanent support office for the Network at Europol" is intended to be in place by January 2019.


The SUI's were created under: Council Decision 617-2008: on the improvement of cooperation between the special intervention units of the Member States of the European Union in crisis situations (pdf) and covers the following definition::

"‘crisis situation’ shall mean any situation in which the competent authorities of a Member State have reasonable grounds to believe that there is a criminal offence presenting a serious direct physical threat to persons, property, infrastructure or institutions in that Member State, in particular those situations referred to in Article 1(1) of Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism."

The scope of the Council Framework Decision of 2002 defining terrorism (pdf) in the wake of 11 September 2002 includes:

"unduly compelling a Government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act..."

This is was qualified following civil society concerns including from Statewatch by the late addition of a Recital which reads as follows:

"Nothing in this Framework Decision may be interpreted as being intended to reduce or restrict fundamental rights or freedoms such as the right to strike, freedom of assembly, of association or of expression, including the right of everyone to form and to join trade unions with others for the protection of his or her interests and the related right to demonstrate."

Footnote 1: The Conclusions have been "submitted to the Member States' approval in an informal silence procedure." [this means it will be approved by all Member States unless there is an objection is lodged]
See also

Atlas Network & Internal Security Strategy (Statewatch News)

EU police special forces network to become "more and more useful" and to receive increased financial support (Statewatch News)

Europe’s Emerging Counter-Terrorism Elite: The ATLAS Network (, link)

EU Member States decide to help with political crises and terrorist attacks (link): "With the "solidarity clause", the European special forces united in the "ATLAS network" receive for the first time a concrete field of activity."

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