EU: New counter-terror plans and more powers for Europol put rights at risk

Earlier this month, the European Commission published its new counter-terrorism agenda, alongside a proposal to expand the powers of EU policing agency Europol. Initial reactions from civil society to the proposals have been sharply critical, with the European Network Against Racism saying the plan "includes a range of initiatives that double down on policies and practices that are discriminatory, criminalizing and racializing."


European Commission press release: Security Union: A Counter-Terrorism Agenda and stronger Europol to boost the EU's resilience (pdf):

"Today, the Commission is presenting a new Counter-Terrorism Agenda for the EU to step up the fight against terrorism and violent extremism and boost the EU's resilience to terrorist threats. Building on the work done in recent years, the Agenda seeks to support Member States in better anticipating, preventing, protecting and responding to the terrorist threat. Europol, the EU Agency for law enforcement cooperation, will deliver better operational support to Member States' investigations under the revised mandate proposed today."

Documentation

Quite aside from the substance of the plans, it is interesting to note that the EU's approach has been rebranded as "anticipate, prevent, protect and respond". The previous mantra - "prevent, protect, disrupt, respond" - was clearly drawn from the UK's "pursue, prevent, protect, prepare", but this may have fallen out of style given the departure of the UK from the EU.

The extensive set of actions provided in the communication come under these four new headings, and a Counter-Terrorism Coordinator will be appointed by the European Commission to help propel the plans (in addition to the Council of the EU's own Counter-Terrorism Coordinator).

  • Anticipate
  • European Commission:
    • Develop risk assessment and peer review activities, including the on-demand deployment of EU Protective Security Advisors.
    • Fund EU-security research to strengthen early detection capacity and develop new technologies under the Urban Agenda for the EU.
    • Explore how new technologies can contribute to security. Better integrate strategic intelligence and threat assessments to support forward looking policy.
  • Member states:
    • Continue providing EU INTCEN with necessary resources and high quality input.
  • Prevent
  • European Commission:
    • Propose a Digital Services Act.
    • In cooperation with Europol, provide guidance for the implementation of the EU Crisis Protocol.
    • Support Member States to develop strategic communication and increase the dissemination of counter- and alternative narratives.
    • Provide guidance on management and risk assessments in prison and on early rehabilitation and reintegration.
    • Foster best practices sharing between Member States to manage returning foreign terrorist fighters and their family members.
    • Propose setting up an EU Knowledge Hub on the prevention of radicalisation and support national networks of stakeholders and national centres.
  • European Parliament and Council
    • Adopt, as a matter of urgency, the Regulation addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online.
  • Commission and member states:
    • Ensure that projects which are incompatible with European values or pursue an illegal agenda do not receive support from public funds. Build community resilience through the measures included in the Action Plan on integration and inclusion.
  • Protect
  • European Commission:
    • Propose a Schengen Strategy in 2021.
    • Propose an EU Pledge on Urban Security and Resilience, to prevent and counter radicalisation and reduce vulnerabilities in public spaces.
    • Help enhance the physical protection of places of worship, in close coordination with Member States.
    • Propose measures to enhance the resilience of critical infrastructure.
    • Propose to revise the Advance Passenger Information Directive.
    • Establish an information exchange system on refusals to grant authorisations for firearms.
    • Follow-up with Member States on the implementation of relevant legislation and take further steps in infringement proceedings, as appropriate.
  • Member states:
    • Swiftly address gaps and shortcomings in implementation of relevant legislation.
    • Ensure systematic checks of all travellers against relevant databases at the external borders.
    • Issue alerts in SIS on suspected foreign terrorist fighters.
    • Urgently roll out the fingerprint search functionality in the SIS Automated Fingerprint Identification System.
    • Swiftly implement EES, ETIAS and ECRIS-TCN and allow for their interoperability.
    • Strengthen chemical and bio-security.
  • Respond
  • European Commission:
    • Propose to revise the Prüm Decisions.
    • Create a network of counter-terrorism financial investigators to improve cross-border financial investigations.
    • Support Member States to use battlefield information to identify, detect and prosecute returning Foreign Terrorists Fighters.
    • Propose a mandate to negotiate a cooperation agreement between the EU and Interpol.
    • Support victims of terrorism, including through the EU Centre of Expertise for victims of terrorism.
  • European Parliament and the Council:
    • Urgently adopt the e-evidence proposals to ensure speedy and reliable access to e-evidence for authorities.
    • Examine the proposal to revise Europol’s mandate.
  • Reinforcing international cooperation across all four pillars
  • European Commission and EU High Representative:
    • Step up cooperation with Western Balkan partners in the area of firearms
    • Negotiate international agreements with Southern Neighbourhood countries to exchange personal data with Europol.
    • Reinforce engagement with international organisations.
    • Enhance strategic and operational cooperation with other regions such as the Sahel region, the Horn of Africa, with other African countries and key regions in Asia.
  • European Parliament and the Council:
    • Authorise the opening of negotiations with Southern Neighbourhood countries to allow cooperation with Eurojust.

Europol

The broad lines of the proposed changes to Europol's mandate have already been discussed at length; it remains to be seen how they will be altered during the legislative process. You can find more information in the Statewatch Database.

Critique

Statewatch will analyse the proposals in the coming weeks.

 

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