Statewatch News online: Doubts on EU Presidency proposal to target protestors as "terrorists" (1)

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EU Presidency presents draft Council Decision to target protestors as "terrorists"

The Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union has presented the EU Working Party on Terrorism with a draft Council Decision (under Article 34 of the Treaty on European Union) which would introduce the exchange of information on suspected protestors to protect EU Summits and other international meetings. What appeared to be a "maverick" idea from the Spanish Presidency has become a serious proposition.

The draft Decision openly admits that the Council Framework Decision on defining terrorism includes:

"violence and criminal damage orchestrated by radical extremist groups, clearly terrorising society, to which the Union has reacted by including such acts in Article 1 of the Framework Decision on combating terrorism"

The formal text of the draft Decision says in Article 1 that information should be exchanged on:

"incidents caused by violent radical groups with terrorist links.. and where appropriate, prosecuting violent urban youthful radicalism increasingly used by terrorist organisations to achieve their criminal aims, at summits and other events arranged by various Community and international organisations"

Article 2 says information would be exchanged on "individuals with a police record in connection with terrorism" (which appears to refer to a record of a criminal conviction which may be for minor public order offences). But it then goes on to say this requirement is not necessary where domestic law allows the exchange of "intelligence" (suspicions and suppositions).

Article 3 says that information "shall not be exchanged on people exercising their constitutional rights and freedoms to assemble" but will "apply to members of actual organisations run by terrorist organisations for the purpose of achieving their own destabilisation and propaganda aims".

The background report says that the information exchanged "could also include other data, supplied by Europol"

It also refers to using the "BDL" network for the exchange of data - this is a secure communications network used by the internal security agencies of EU states.

Under Article 34 of the TEU the European Parliament has to be "consulted" on Council Decisions, but its views are often ignored.

Full-text: Initiative by the Kingdom of Spain for the adoption of a Council Decision introducing a standard form for exchanging information on incidents caused by violent radical groups with terrorist links: 5712/1/02 (pdf)

Tony Bunyan Statewatch editor comments:

"To link protest groups to terrorism under the EU Framework Decision defining terrorism confirms the worst fears of civil society that, despite assurances to the contrary, this was always the intention of a majority of EU governments.

When the Spanish Presidency proposal was discussed in the EU Working Party on Terrorism on 4 February it faced opposition from a number of governments but now the Presidency has simply carried on and produced draft legislation.

Protest groups are not terrorist organisations. There is no evidence whatsoever that groups protesting, for example, against the effects of globalisation, have any links with real terrorist groups. This proposal has to be thrown in the dustbin"

Statewatch News online coverage: 15 February 2002

The Spanish Presidency of the EU proposed, in a report dated 29 January, that law enforcement and intelligence agencies should exchange information on "terrorist incidents" to combat the increase during:

"various European Union summits and other events, in violence and criminal damage orchestrated by radical extremist groups, clearly terrorising society"

However, at the meeting of the EU's Working Party on Terrorism on 4 February:

"Various delegations insisted that public order incidents are not always terrorist related. A clear distinction should be made. Incidents at the G7 Summit in Genoa were not caused by terrorists."

The Presidency "promised it would reflect on the text".

It seems that other member states were not keen to see the post 11 September system for the notification of incidents and intelligence on real terrorist threats mixed up with messages on the activities of protestors and protest groups from across the EU.

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor comments:

"This seems to be a case of a "maverick" EU Presidency trying to get through a new measure based on its own perception of "terrorism" which extends to cover protestors and public order.

However, the fact that this particular initiative appears to have been put on hold does not detract from the fact that the EU already has in place an extensive plan - agreed on 13 July 2001 - to place protest and protestors under surveillance, that plans are underway to bring together all the para-military police units from EU states to "police" future protests at EU Summit and other international meetings and that there is a proposal on the table to create a database on the Schengen Information System of suspected "troublemakers"/protestors"

The Spanish Presidency proposal said that these "incidents" are:

"the work of a loose network, hiding behind various social fronts, by which we mean organisations taking advantage of their lawful status to aid and abet the achievement of terrorist groups' aims."

And went on to propose that the Council of the European Union should introduce "a standard form for exchanging information on terrorist incidents" as this would be very helpful in:

"prosecuting violent urban youthful radicalism, which is increasingly being used as a cat's paw by terrorist groups in order to achieve their criminal aims"

The information would be exchanged between agencies in EU member states dealing with combating "terrorism" using the secure BDL network (between national criminal intelligences agencies).

The Presidency proposal was presented to the Working Party on Terrorism meeting in Brussels on 4 February. The Working Party is comprised of officials and officers from the law enforcement agencies and internal security agencies responsible for combating terrorism. However, as there is already in place a "standard form" and procedure to report and coordinate information and intelligence on real terrorist incidents (see below), the proposal of the Spanish Presidency can only be seen as seeking to get the backing of other member states to extend terrorist reporting/intelligence to protests and normal democratic activity.

Standard form already agreed?

What is extraordinary about the Presidency proposal is that the same working party has already agreed on a standard form to exchange information on terrorism in a series of meetings last year.

On 17 September 2001 the working party agreed that, after the attacks in the USA, there should be the "rapid exchange of information exchanges on terrorist attacks". A standard form was agreed which was to be sent through the BDL network (see doc.10524/5/01 below).

The proposal was then incorporated in the "Action Plan on Terrorism" (see: Observatory) as point 27: "Systematic transmission to Europol of any piece of data relevant to terrorism" which now covers not just terrorist incidents but all ongoing intelligence data.

The discussions in the working party on the standard form largely took place before 11 September and were clearly concerned with real "terrorism" and not protests and protestors. Indeed one of the key discussions in the working party was whether or not to explicitly refer to "Terrorist bombings or attempted bombings" or simply to any "bombing or attempted bombing" (which would automatically be assumed to be "terrorist"). There were six versions of the report and in an unpublished (REV 4) report this issue is clearly confronted by a number of EU member states who want the proposal clearly limited to "Terrorist bombings or attempted bombings" - the final version adopted this view.

Six categories of terrorist activity are listed as qualifying for inclusion provided they met one of two criteria:

"2.4.10  The incident is of international significance, either because the target (person or building etc) is foreign (eg an embassy) or because the claim emanates from a foreign group"

or that the "incident is serious" where there are a large number of victims or significant damage".

EU crime prevention experts discuss combating protests

A further example of the targeting of protestors is provided in an obscure EU report from the "sub-workgroup EUCPN JAI 82" (see document 14917/01 below). This new acronym refers to the EU Crime Prevention Network (EUCPN) and "JAI 82" refers to the Conclusions, agreed on 13 July 2001, by a specially convened meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council to lay down extensive plans to place protest and protestors under surveillance: see Statewatch report

This report covers the first meeting of the new group on 27 November 2001 in Ostend, which was called by the Belgian Presidency of the EU, and attended by Finland and the European Commission. It says that the Network should exchange information to "prevent violence during mass events and high-level meetings" and that its next meeting will discuss "youth culture and riot culture".


1. Spanish Presidency proposal: Presentation of a Presidency initiative for the introduction of a standard form for exchanging information on terrorist incidents: 5712/02

2. Rapid information exchange on terrorist attacks: 10524/5/01

3. Conclusions of the sub-workgroup EUCPN JAI 82 Ostend, Belgium, 27 November 2001: 14917/01

4. Plan to set up database on the SIS on "protestors": Statewatch report

5. For documentation on post-Genoa plans see: Statewatch: Observatory on EU plans to combat protest

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