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EU to enhance terrorism "threat assessments" as Counter Terrorist Group moves towards "real time information exchange"
13 May 2016
The Dutch Presidency of the Council of the EU has offered Member States two options on how "a fuller, more coherent, comprehensive and future-oriented picture of the terrorist threat" could be established at EU level: either by increasing cooperation between Europol and the EU Intelligence Analysis Centre (INTCEN), or by inviting the Council's COSI committee (operational cooperation on internal security) to develop "common conclusions" based on work undertaken by Europol and INTCEN.
See: NOTE from: Presidency to: JHA Counsellors/COSI Support Group, Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security
(8409/16, 4 May 2016, pdf)
Ways to increase information- and intelligence-sharing amongst national authorities, with the aim of improving operational cooperation, have been ongoing for years. Fresh impetus has been given to these efforts following repeated terrorist attacks in France and Belgium in the last 18 months.
The Presidency's paper runs through the recent history of high-level declarations calling on national authorities to cooperate more closely, and comes up with two proposals "for the way forward":
"To achieve a fuller, more coherent, comprehensive and future-oriented picture of the terrorist threat, the Presidency suggests considering the following two options for strengthening cooperation on counter-terrorism threat analysis, especially after terrorist incidents:
I: Maintain separate reports/assessments by Europol and EU INTCEN (i.e. not producing a new document), but increasing the mutual exchange of views during the drafting phase. The respective analyses from Europol (TE-SAT) and EU INTCEN (six-monthly Threat Analysis) would benefit from the mutually/complementary dimension provided: the law enforcement community input on one side and the intelligence and security services contribution on the other side.
II: Produce a threat assessment, consisting of three parts: the main threat assessment reports produced currently by Europol and EU INTCEN and a third part which would be a set of common conclusions and recommendations. This third part will be prepared by COSI in close cooperation with Europol and EU INTCEN. If necessary COSI will consult with relevant Council working parties.
Interested Member States, EU agencies, in particular Eurojust and Frontex could contribute to such a threat assessment.
Producing the threat assessment will be done in full compliance with the EU regulations and rules on the handling of classified information.
Member States are invited to indicate their preferences among the options listed.
The selected option could be presented as a concrete deliverable to the Council in June, as set out in paragraph 5 of the Joint statement of EU Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs and representatives of EU institutions on the terrorist attacks in Brussels on 22 March 2016, adopted on 24 March 2016 in Brussels.
COSI, in close cooperation with the two main entities involved (Europol and EU INTCEN), would subsequently work out the details of the selected option with a view to its future production. If necessary, this work could include the revision of the TE-SAT."
Meanwhile, outside of EU structures, it seems that EU Member States are forging ahead with more advanced projects. The minutes of a recent meeting of the Council's Terrorism Working Party note that the Counter Terrorist Group is planning "to establish a digital platform for real time information exchange, including an analytical tool and a physical platform of intelligence officers stationed in the Netherlands."
See: Outcome of proceedings of: Terrorism Working Party, 27 April 2016
(8329/16, 10 May 2016, pdf)
A 2011 EUobserver article notes that:
"All 27 EU countries plus Norway and Switzerland share secrets inside the non-EU body, the Club de Berne. They share secrets on terrorism in a Club de Berne offshoot, the Counter Terrorist Group (CTG). The CTG is also a non-EU body but talks to the EU institutions via the Joint Situation Centre, a branch of Ashton's EEAS.
"The Club de Berne is an institution based on voluntariness. The members come together to speak about problems, to exchange views and exchange experience and information. These meetings on the level of heads of service take place frequently," Gridling said. "The CTG is nowadays the interface between the Club de Berne and the EU ... the Joint Situation Centre has been attending CTG meetings for years and acts as a gateway for the CTG to the EU institutions.""
See: EU commission keen to set up new counter-terrorism office