28 March 2012
Majority of EU governments want a wide definition of "terrorism", one that could include protests
The latest version of the Council's (representing the 15 EU governments) discussion on the definition of terrorism shows that it could cover protests and other democratic activity as well as terrorism. The Council's proposed definition, as discussed at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 16 November, is backed by a "a majority of delegations" who want a reference to "terrorist intent" as set out in the UN conventions on terrorism (conventions influenced in a major way by the USA and leading EU governments around G8) - along the lines of "with the aim of intimidating a population or to compel a government or international organisation to do or abstain from doing something".
"Other delegations wanted to restrict this definition as far as possible in order to ensure that legitimate action, such as trade union activities or anti-globalisation movements, could under no circumstances come within the scope of the Framework Decision" (12647/3/01, 14.11.01)
The current draft text thus represents the view of the majority of EU governments and reads as follows:
"Each Member State shall take the necessary measures to ensure that terrorist offences include the intentional acts listed below, which may be seriously damaging to a country or international organisation, as defined under national law, where committed with the aim of:
(i) seriously intimidating a population, or
(ii) unduly compelling a Government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act or
(iii) destabilising or destroying the political, constitutional or economic structures of a country or international organisation"
The concept of "seriously damaging a country or international organisation" is nebulous and vague. "Seriously intimidating a population" is equally vague and could, in certain circumstances, be applied to a large-scale protest. "Unduly compelling a Government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act"defies reasonable understanding and would appear to cover many, many legitimate demands for change as would "destabilising or destroying the political, constitutional or economic structures of a country or international organisation".
The previous version of 26 October read:
"Each Member State shall take the necessary steps to ensure that terrorist offences include the [intentional] acts list below, as defined under national law, where unlawfully committed with the aim of seriously affecting, in particular by the intimidation of the population, or destroying the political, economic or social structures of a country or of an organisation governed by public international law" (the brackets  in original; 12647/1/01, 26.10.01)
The Council position on the controversial Article 3.f (in the Commission's draft). The Commission draft read:
"Unlawful seizure of or damage to state or government facilities, means of public transport, infrastructure facilities, places of public use, and property"
The Council's new draft reads:
"causing extensive damage to public facilities, a transport system, an infrastructure facility, including information systems, a fixed platform located on a continental shelf, a public place or private property which may cause massive destruction of such a place, facility or system or considerable economic loss"
This version adds "a fixed platform located on a continental shelf" presumably referring to oil or natural gas rigs and re-inserts "or private property" omitted from the previous version.
Full-text of European Commission proposal: Text (pdf)
Full-text of first Council's reaction (12647/01): Text (pdf)
For full background see: Statewatch "Observatory" in defence of freedom and democracy
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