The topic of counter-terrorism in Europe remains closely linked to the development and expansion of police (and secret service) databases. This was the case in the 1970s, after 11 September 2001 and has also been the case since 2014, when the EU Member States started working on their action plans against 'foreign terrorist fighters'.
The formal process of developing and implementing EU counter-terrorism law and policy begins with the heads of government, in the European Council, setting out strategic guidelines. Thereafter, the Commission produces proposals for laws and policies that are discussed by the Council of the EU (made up of government officials) and the Parliament. However, this formal task-sharing between the institutions of the EU does not say much about the power relations and impulses surrounding counter-terrorism policy.
The lorry attack on the Berlin Christmas Market on 19 December 2016 was the perfect reason for the German government to demand even stricter laws on counter-terrorism. With 12 people killed and 55 hurt it was the most severe individual attack since the neo-Nazi assault at the Oktoberfest in 1980.
This year, there has not been any migrant boat arriving from Egypt so far. Is this an effect of the new Egyptian anti-smuggling law? In the meantime, migrants in the North African country experience arbitrary detentions for indefinite periods, deportations which violate international law and scarce or non-existent protection for those who supposedly have a right to it. Asylum is a taboo for the authorities in Cairo, and the UN agency for refugees does what it can (but also - according to accusations by several workers - a lot less than that), while the work of humanitarian organisations in this sector is limited by the Egyptian regime’s repressive actions. In the meantime, the IOM, Italy and other EU countries renew their programmes to support Egyptian border guards, and the EU has agreed a five-fold increase in its budget for Egypt from the Africa Trust Fund.
While the White Paper has thought some issues through in detail, there are some key points on which it is either vague or unconvincing (or both). In particular, it contains no real detail or substantiated argument on the most important issue: the power of the executive to amend laws without an Act of Parliament.
A new European Commission evaluation of EU laws on migrant smuggling concludes there is a need to improve the situation around "the perceived risk of criminalisation of humanitarian assistance" to “irregular” migrants. The Commission argues that the answer to the problem is "effective implementation of the existing legal framework" – but it is the laws currently in place, which let Member States decide whether or not to punish humanitarian assistance, that permits the existence of a very real risk of criminalisation in the majority of EU Member States.
Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos noted “progress” on both schemes although the challenge requires that “more needs to be done, and faster”, calling on member states to show “political will, commitment and perseverance”. As for the 8th previous report, isolating these two aspects enables the portrayal of a situation which is improving while turning attention away from its systemic effects in the frontline states and this approach’s limits in terms of rationality and sustainability.
A detailed overview of agreements between the EU's border agency, Frontex, and non-EU states.
At the end of January the European Commission issued its fourth report on "building an effective and genuine Security Union”, examining four topics: “information systems and interoperability, soft target protection, cyber threat and data protection in the context of criminal investigations." The report puts significant focus on the need for “interoperability” between EU and national-level information systems and databases, in order to enable EU-wide biometric surveillance, one of the current favourite topics of EU security officials.
The partial concealment of border enforcement procedures underlines the inherent structural accountability and transparency deficits of Frontex specifically and EU agencies in general.
We pay but others do it. This first and foremost has been the response of the European Union to the so-called “refugee crisis”.
Over a year after the start of implementation of the EU Agenda on Migration, the EU Action Plan on Migrations and in particular the roll-out of the hotspot approach in Italy and Greece, mounting evidence shows that far from assisting frontline states, they are being punished for shortcomings in implementing a dysfunctional model designed to penalise them.
Operation Sophia, the EU’s military mission targeting migrant smuggling in the Mediterranean, has a “deterrence effect” that “by its presence alone, enhances security in the Mediterranean,” according to an internal report by the Italian naval officer in charge of the deployment. Yet as people continue crossing the central Mediterranean, and increasing numbers of them die whilst trying to do so, the only reasonable question to be asked is: what deterrent effect?
A European Commission proposal to expand the Eurodac biometric database has provided the perfect opportunity for national interior ministries to demand that police forces be able to obtain asylum-seekers’ and irregular migrants’ data more easily, despite the fact that half of all Member States do “not yet have experience with law enforcement access” to the system, according to an official document obtained by Statewatch.
The EU is actively cooperating with authoritarian regimes to control international movement while ignoring the disastrous human rights records of these regimes.
I have picked up a sheet of paper on which I had written, in one go, a series of notes which I had not even re-read yet, until today. Less than a year ago, it had been put away without even knowing what to o with them, after a round of consultations with friends who are legal experts and lawyers. Who should I give it to? With what evidence could I support those words? There wasn’t any way to use them, even though each of them had the weight of a boulder.
These written submissions are presented on behalf of Statewatch, hereinafter “the Intervener”, pursuant to the grant of permission of the President of the First Section of the Court notified in a letter dated 6 July 2016 and addressed to Statewatch by the Section Registrar.
Earlier this month, the European Parliament and Council finally agreed to outlaw the export, brokering and promotion of torture and execution equipment from Europe. Such equipment includes guillotines, hanging ropes, lethal injection drugs, multi-barbed steel ‘sting sticks’, electroshock batons and tools familiar to torturers of old: leg irons and wall cuffs to hang prisoners from walls and ceilings, thumbscrews, neck chains and other medieval paraphernalia.
The EU has a long-standing ambition to create an “area of freedom, security and justice”, as set out in Article 67 of the Lisbon Treaty. A more recent counterpart to this ideal is the plan to create a “true internal market for security”, in which companies will be able to sell security technologies, products and services to customers in any EU Member State without being hampered by differing regulatory or technical standards. The first formal announcement of this new policy came in 2012, when the European Commission published the Security Industrial Policy (SIP), with the “overarching aim” to “enhance growth and increase employment in the EU's security industry.”
On 26 May 2015 the EU Ombudsman opened an Inquiry into “the transparency of trilogues”. On 12 July 2016 the Ombudsman reached a decision and made proposals to the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament and the European Commission. On the face of it the proposals look like an advance in the openness of trilogues - but are they?
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