Homeland Security comes to the EU: European Commission publishes Action Plan on terrorism (and crime)

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- plans cover terrorism but also include measures which have nothing to do with combating terrorism
- fingerprinting for EU passports and ID cards to be mandatory
- European Registry on convictions to be created on all crimes
- European Registry of all travel documents to be created
- EU passenger name records (PNR) to be collected and put on database
- UK demanding EU-wide mandatory data retention of communications

The European Commission today published a far-reaching Action plan in response to the dreadful bomb attacks in Madrid on 11 March 2004. See: full-text of: Action Plan (pdf) Background Note for JHA Council (pdf) Coverage on: (link), Guardian (link)

This will be discussed at the emergency meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council on Friday 19 March and the conclusions will be adopted by the European Summit on 25-26 March. It may also be expected that other proposals will be put on the table by national governments. The UK, for example, will be proposing that EU-wide mandatory retention of communications data be agreed (see: a previous proposal backed by the UK was dropped in August 2002). The UK is also very concerned that it will excluded from participation in the EU Border Management Agency as it is not a full member of Schengen. David Blunkett wants to "use" the siutation to "find a mechanism" for the UK to take part.

The Commission Action Plan contains the following proposals:

1. That a series of existing measures which have been adopted need to be implemented at national level and between member states.

2. There will be a Declaration of Solidarity taken from the proposed EU Constitution. This would allow member states to come to the aid of one another. The "Solidarity" clause in the Constitution would be implemented by the Political and Security Committee of the Council and a new Art 162 Standing Committee on operational cooperation on internal security (see, Statewatch analysis of this: Committee's role under the Constitution)

The Action Plan goes half-way down this road by proposing the Council could set up a "new coordination mechanism for the exchange of information". This "mechanism" would include law enforcement, judicial authorities and intelligence services (inc internal security agencies)

3. Commission to propose legislation on "cross border hot pursuit" - this does not appear to be limited to terrorism.

4. New proposal to introduce customs control on cash movements at external borders - does not appear to be limited to terrorism

5. Commission and European banking sector are establishing "an electronic database of all targeted persons and entities" - to freeze assets. It will be operational in the summer of 2004 - this appears to be limited to people and groups on terrorist lists

6. Exchange of information on convictions for terrorist offences

7. A database run in conjunction with the private sector on "persons, groups and entities covered by restrictive measures for the fight against terrorism"

8. The establishment of a European Register on Convictions and disqualifications of individuals and bodies to help the "fight against crime in general and terrorism in particular"

9. New proposal from the Commission to have "systems allowing holders of bank accounts to be identified and facilitating investigations into bank accounts and movement of funds" - this does not appear to be limited to terrorism.

10. The "lists of terrorist organisations/assets shou

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