EU: Justice and Home Affairs agencies' counter-terrorism roles continue to expand

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Justice and Home Affairs agencies' counter-terrorism roles continue to expand
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Two papers recently circulated to the Member States by the EU's Counter-Terrorism Coordinator set out the EU Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) agencies' current roles in implementing counter-terrorism policy and raise a number of suggestions for how things could develop in the future - pointing to a signigficantly increased role for EU agencies which the Coordinator says will require more money, more cooperaton between the agencies themselves and with non-EU states, a greater role for the Council's internal security committee (COSI) in decision-making on operational issues and more staff for the agencies.

See: NOTE from: EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator to: Permanent Representatives Committee/Council: JHA agencies' role in counter-terrorism (6146/18, LIMITE, 27 February 2018, pdf) and more detail: ADD 1 (pdf)

Possibilities raised inlcude increased collection and processing of biometric data by Europol, new agreements between Frontex and non-EU states (in particular Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Japan) and the stepping up of counter-terrorism training by the European Police College (CEPOL)


"Today, the EIS [Europol Information System] contains 46,166 persons linked to terrorism (foreign terrorist fighters and their supporters/facilitators), 6.573 provided by EU Member States and 39.593 by third parties compared to around 350 at the end of 2014."

The most active third party is the USA: "Most of this information shared by the US (Terrorist Screening Center Data)."

Removing undesirable content from the internet is another line of work for the agency:

"Since Europol’s IRU was established in July 2015, 45,598 items were assessed for referral in over 80 online platforms and in more than 10 languages (focus on non-EU languages) to internet companies for removal, with a success rate of 85 %. Eight referral action days have been organized with participation of 19 Member States and six third partners [CH, US, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Serbia and Interpol] in cooperation with internet companies."

Europol in also active in the "hotspots" set up in Italy and Greece:

"In 2017, Europol staff and guest officers carried out secondary security checks in hotspots in Italy and Greece, leading to 83 hits (9.896 persons, 1.242 documents and 10.388 communication means (mobile devices, email etc.) referred for secondary security checks). It will be necessary to ensure continued financing for Europol's hotspot deployments in 2018."

A growing number of security and intelligence agencies are connected to Europol's information systems or are seconding staff members to the Europol HQ:

"An increasing number of Member States are connecting their security service to Europol: Nine Member States and one third country with a security/intelligence service function now have a connection with CT SIENA. Five Member States and one third country have representatives from their security/intelligence service assigned to their Europol National Liaison Bureau in The Hague."

It is also noted that Europol and the Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG, a network of national intelligence agencies) "continue to explore possibilities for cooperation."

The policing agency is also developing a "vision" for travel information:

"Europol is also developing a vision on travel information in cooperation with the Commission, other JHA agencies and Member States on how the various initiatives (ETIAS, EES, PNR, interoperability, revisions of SIS and Eurodac) can get together from an operational perspective and how Europol can best support the relevant border management and security authorities."

New agreements with third countries are also on the way: "Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey." Priorities countries are listed as being Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Japan.


The EU's judicial cooperation agency is becoming increasingly prominent in terrorism cases:

"The number of terrorism cases Eurojust has supported over the last years has increased six times: 14 cases have been registered at Eurojust in 2014, 41 in 2015, 67 in 2016 and 87 in 2017. Eurojust was mobilized in the aftermath of the attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis, in Brussels and Zaventem, in Berlin and in Barcelona and Cambrils."


"Information sharing about ongoing investigations on terrorist offenses more than tripled in the last three years: 110 in 2015, 161 in 2016 and 375 in 2017. With regard to convictions, information on 218 concluded court proceedings was shared with Eurojust in 2015, 275 in 2016 and 345 in 2017."


The border agency has a number of roles in relation to EU counter-terrorism policy, including the detection of "foreign terrorist fighters" (FTFs):

"Frontex has included the detection of suspected FTFs as an operational objective in most of its operations, including in the hotspots. All officers deployed by Frontex in all phases of Frontex support (interceptions, nationality identification, de-briefing, document checking and registration) are trained to recognize indicators pointing to potential suspects/FTFs. Beyond its direct role in Joint Operations, Frontex has contributed to the further operationalisation of the detection of suspected FTFs by developing common risk indicators booklets for border guards and other law enforcement authorities. The booklet has just been updated and will be translated into ten EU languages. The aim is to support the identification of the "unknowns" who are not included in SIS II or other databases, but also to detect FTF who are known but could not be identified (e.g. no travel document), and to refer the suspects for second line security checks."

In relation to this:

"Frontex is processing a large volume of personal data related to suspects of cross-border crime, including terrorism. This information is collected during Frontex-coordinated operations, in particular by debriefing teams, and is first transmitted to the Member State hosting the operation, then transmitted by the host Member State to Frontex, which stores the data for up to 90 days, and then shared by Frontex with Europol after preliminary risk analysis15. These “information packages” of personal data transmitted to Europol - based on a specific agreement - are mainly in relation to migrant smuggling, but can also include information on potential FTFs. A similar working arrangement is now being discussed with Eurojust."

The importance of the EU's interoperability initiative is noted:

"Risk assessments at the border to identify unknown potential terrorist suspects should include all travel information available to law enforcement and border guards (API, PNR, VIS, EES, ETIAS). It is important that tactical risk assessment capacities are developed in an interoperable manner in the EU to achieve harmonization among Member States and to allow for consistent security levels at EU external borders. Frontex, through its Advance Information Working Group, aims at providing Member States with guidelines on how to develop tactical risk profiles and build a targeting capability while creating a common framework in order to tend to interoperability and harmonization within the EU."


The European Police College is stepping up its work on counter-terrorism:

"In 2018 and 2019, a pilot CEPOL Knowledge Centre (CKC) on counter-terrorism is being established, a virtual knowledge hub that provides needs assessment, planning and implementation of training activities for law enforcement. This is a consortium of eight Member States (BE, CZ, DE, FR, IT, NL, PL, PT) and academia, led by the Netherlands Police Academy. 10 residential counter-terrorism training courses are planned for 2018, taking place in the consortium Member States, with about 260 participants and a variety of topics ranging from terrorist financing over radicalization in prison, de-radicalization of foreign fighters to PNR, preventing attacks on critical infrastructure and airport soft target protection."

Fundamental Rights Agency

There is also a role for the FRA:

"FRA research could be relevant in particular in the context of prevention of radicalization, including underlying factors such as integration. To date, FRA has undertaken the largest comparative EU surveys on ethnic minority and immigrant groups in the European Union, with up to 25,000 people interviewed. Such data can be used to support action related to integration and counter-radicalisation and be broken down at the level of individual Member States and with respect to different respondent characteristics"


"Finally, the active involvement of the FRA in the context of the High Level Expert Group on Interoperability and the High Level Commission Expert Group on Radicalization could be a model for early involvement of the FRA in future security related initiatives to include the human rights perspective from the outset."

See: NOTE from: EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator to: Permanent Representatives Committee/Council: JHA agencies' role in counter-terrorism (6146/18, LIMITE, 27 February 2018, pdf) and more detail: ADD 1 (pdf)

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