Exchanging information on terrorists or protestors?

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An initiative of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union (the 15 EU governments) in the first half of 2002 on introducing "a standard form for exchanging information on terrorists" was finally adopted as an "A Point" without discussion by the Competitive Council of Ministers on 14 November 2002. The article below examines it importance.

Full-text of adopted: Recommendation (pdf)


Source: Statewatch bulletin, vol 12 no 2, March-April 2002

Exchanging information on terrorists or protestors?

The Spanish Presidency of the EU seems to be determined to get through its controversial proposal to introduce "a standard form for exchanging information on incidents caused by violent radical groups with terrorist links" (see Statewatch, vol 12 no 1).

The proposal now runs to six drafts. The subject of the first two draft proposals referred to "violent radical groups with terrorist links". This was changed in the third draft to "exchanging information on terrorists". However, the content and intent did not change.

The first two drafts

The initial proposal explicitly said - despite previous assurances - that the EU definition of terrorism includes:

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

Article 1 of the first two drafts said - in a clear reference to Gothenburg and Genoa last summer - information should be exchanged on:
incidents caused by 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

The EU Presidency said in explanation 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 achievements of terrorist groups' aims"

Basic intentions clear

The proposal has run into some opposition in the Council's Working Party on Terrorism from the Netherlands and a minority of member state governments. This explains the change in the title of the drafts and the dropping of the overt references to protest groups given above. However, the following observations are required:

1. The same Working Party has already agreed on a standard form to exchange data on real terrorists (see below). So why is this measure necessary?

2. All the subsequent drafts, including the latest one (dated 13 May) refer to:

i) "terrorist organisations [achieving] their criminal aims at large international events". But there have been no terrorist attacks at EU Summits or other international meetings held in the EU. The only problem, for governments, at EU Summits and meetings like the G8 in Genoa has come from protests.

ii) "terrorist organisations for the purpose of achieving their own destabilisation and propaganda aims" at EU Summits and international events. This is plainly ludicrous, no real terrorist group would stand outside the G8 Summit and hand out leaflets for "propaganda" purposes.

3. The information on individuals is to be exchanged through the "BDL Network", the security communications network used by the internal security agencies (like MI5) in the EU. No data protection provisions are set out, nor is any mechanism set out for accountability.

4. The Spanish Presidency, because it is running out of time (Denmark takes over from 1 July), has changed the basis of the measure from a Framework Decision under Article 34.2.c. of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) (which requires the European and national parliaments to be

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