EU: Council pushes for reinforced security and policing powers in the wake of terrorist attacks


A set of draft Council Conclusions on internal security and a Joint Statement responding to recent terrorist attacks in France and Austria (the latter now approved by member states' representatives) call for boosting the powers of policing, security and border agencies. Increased access to information for frontline police officers, the use of artifical intelligence for law enforcement, and further calls to undermine encryption are featured in both documents.

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NOTE from: Presidency to: Delegations: Draft Council Conclusions on Internal Security and European Police Partnership (11518/1/20 REV 1, LIMITE, 9 November 2020, pdf)

Covers a host of issues and lays out "milestones" to be achieved by 2025 "to support the functioning of the area of freedom, security and justice and to establish an effective European Partnership for Internal Security". The text may be further revised prior to approval, which is due at the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in early December.

Bold underlined text represents additions to the initial draft (pdf) following comments from national delegations. Strikethrough is text deleted.

Includes the following to be achieved by 2025:

"Every law enforcement officer in the EU and in the Schengen area has access at all times to the information available in any other Member State necessary to perform his or her duties in line with the existing legal framework."

"Law enforcement authorities are able to use appropriate artificial intelligence technologies in their daily work, subject to clear safeguards."

"Law enforcement agencies are able to work with public and private partners worldwide, subject to a clear safeguards framework, and have access to the necessary information to counter serious crime and violent extremism and terrorism exploiting the internet as these entities may have information that our law enforcement needs to do its work."

And also includes, amongst many other things:

"REQUESTS that the Commission present a legislative proposal for the further development of the Prüm framework. The possible extension to/introduction of other information categories, e.g European Police Records Index System (EPRIS) could be considered in this context."

" enforcement in the Member States should use AI to enhance prevention and facilitate investigation, as well as to protect the victims of such crimes.

REAFFIRMS that the design, development, deployment and evaluation of AI for internal security must be guided by and aligned with fundamental rights and data protection. For AI used by law enforcement, specific fundamental rights requirements arise for the development and the conditions of deployment. To the extent that these systems are to be used, appropriate safeguards are needed to ensure responsible, trustworthy, public-interest-oriented and human-centric development and use of AI applications in the law enforcement sector. Users must adequately understand how AI tools were developed and how they operate, they must be able to explain and demonstrate the results and must have clear knowledge about their impact on individuals, on minorities and on the society as a whole."

"UNDERLINES that encryption is an anchor of confidence in digitalisation and should be promoted and developed. Encryption is a means of protecting privacy as well as the digital security of governments, industry and society. At the same time, lawful access for law enforcement and judicial purposes must be preserved. As stated in the Council declaration on encryption, any action taken has to balance these interests carefully, while seeking technical solutions for lawful access to encrypted data in a close dialogue with the technological industry."

"EMPHASISES the need to further promote the EU’s security and border management partnership in the form of more operational cooperation between Frontex and third countries and SUPPORTS bi- and multilateral initiatives of Member States to enhance operational coordination with third countries."

See also: NOTE from: Presidency to: Permanent Representatives Committee: Draft Joint Statement by the EU Home Affairs Ministers on the recent terrorist attacks in Europe (12634/2/20 REV 2, LIMITE, 9 November 2020, pdf)

See also the previous versions: 12634/20 and 12634/1/20 REV 1 (pdfs)

Like the draft Conclusions on internal security, the document covers a whole range of issues and includes a sentence that suggests future action against civic and religious organisations: "...the undesirable foreign influencing of national civil and religious organisations through non-transparent financing should be limited."

According to a DW report, forthcoming legislation from the French government will:

"...crack down on foreign financing of mosques and private religious schools, bar foreign imams, increase surveillance of associations and individuals suspected of "separatism" — including in the public sector and in sports — and ban efforts threatening gender equality, including pre-marriage "virginity certificates" for Muslim women."

The government has already said it will ban two prominent Muslim organisations and is opening investigations into another 50, according to EUobserver, amidst arrests and deportations of known and suspected radicals. One of the organisations due to be banned, the Collective Against Islamophobia, has accused the French government of adopting far-right rhetoric and policies.

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