EU: Briefing: Counter-terrorism: what the EU is discussing after the Paris attacks

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A recent note distributed to a whole host of national officials provides more details on the security measures interior ministers will discuss at the emergency EU Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on Friday: border control, surveillance, firearms control and countering terrorist financing.

Full briefing: Counter-terrorism: what the EU is discussing after the Paris attacks (pdf)

The note (dated 16 November) was written by the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU and Gilles de Kerchove, the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, and raises a number of issues for discussion on what further counter-terrorism measures to pursue following the attacks in Paris on Friday.

The document: Follow-up to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris (LIMITE, 14122/15, 16 November 2015, pdf)

Key demands in the document are:

  • For the proposed biometric "smart borders" databases to include EU nationals as well as non-EU nationals, requiring fingerprinting, face scans, systematic database searches and entry and exit logging for everyone entering the EU;
  • Increased border checks on EU citizens and others with the right to free movement in the EU, at a time when numerous Schengen states have reinstated controls;
  • Ensure that forthcoming new Frontex legislation gives the border control agency powers to deal with crime and terrorism;
  • Increase information-gathering and exchange by national border and police authorities and ensure they provide data to EU policing agency Europol, which should have greater access to databases and cooperate more closely with the border control agency Frontex;
  • Revise EU laws on firearms and introduce more measures to deal with terrorist financing, beyond those contained in the Anti-Money Laundering Directive agreed in May 2015.

    The note is marked for the attention of EU Member States' delegations in the Council dealing with justice and home affairs, foreign, security and defence policy, internal security, policing, law enforcement, policing, counter-terrorism, education, the Schengen Information System database, border control, and justice.

    It follows a joint statement issued on Sunday 15 November by Bernard Cazeneuve (French Interior Minister), Etienne Schneider (for the Luxembourg Presidency) and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, in which they "underlined the urgent need to take rapid and operational decisions and to put them into practice in a short timespan."

    Many of the demands in the Luxembourg Presidency and CTC document are for the swifter implementation of initiatives agreed after terrorist attacks in France, Belgium and Denmark earlier this year.

    A recent cautionary word from Amnesty International to the G20 heads of state could equally be directed to the EU's interior ministers:

    "The tragic events in Paris have sickened and stunned the world and our hearts and thoughts go out to all those affected by this atrocious attack. The threat of terrorism must always be responded to resolutely, with the utmost regard for security and respect for human rights…

    "Now is… the time for world leaders to show true statesmanship and refuse to bow to the conflated anti-refugee rhetoric which is already emanating from some quarters. We have to remember that many of those trying to gain sanctuary have fled violence, fear and conflict, and indeed often by the very same group known as the Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq."

    Whatever new measures are taken in this time of "urgent need" will add to a vast amount of existing law and policy. Research by Statewatch concluded that many of the measures already in place are highly problematic:

    "[T]he vast majority… has not been subjected to the kind of scrutiny that should be expected of laws that can have such a significant impact upon individuals and public and private institutions. Indeed, the fact that so much counter-terrorism legislation across Europe stems from the European Union, coupled with the limited mechanisms for ensuring democratic accountability in decision-making, national transposition and ex-post review appears to have compounded the problems that have become synonymous with the protection of fundamental rights in this field." (From: 'Taking stock of EU Counter-terrorism policy and review mechanisms: Summary of Statewatch's findings for SECILE project', pdf)

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