05 July 2021
On 7 July, the Council of the EU's Working Party on Terrorism will discuss whether the EU should launch a specific initiative to counter "violent left-wing and anarchist extremism and terrorism," with a background paper from the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator providing a menu of possible activities that the member states and EU institutions could undertake.
On 1 July, the Council Presidency - taken over on that date by Slovenia - sent a "discussion paper" to other delegations' representatives in the Terrorism Working Party: Violent left-wing extremism and anarchism - discussion paper (Council doc. 10180/21, LIMITE, 1 July 2021, pdf):
"The group is invited to discuss the following questions:
1. Is the problem of violent left-wing and anarchist extremism and terrorism so acute or pervasive that it necessitates specific EU action?
2. Do the problems of reciprocal radicalisation involving right-wing and left-wing violent extremists and of continuing clashes between right-wing and left-wing violent extremists strengthen the case for specific EU action against violent left-wing and anarchist extremism and terrorism to tackle polarisation and to complement existing EU action addressing violent right-wing extremism and terrorism?
3. Would it be appropriate to launch a dedicated initiative to prevent and counter left-wing and anarchist violent extremism and terrorism? Or would such an initiative dilute the fight against forms of terrorism that currently project a greater threat to the Union as a whole?
The Presidency is looking forward to the discussion on 7 July."
The Presidency's document follows on from a paper from the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator (CTC): EU action to counter left-wing and anarchist violent extremism and terrorism: Discussion paper (Council doc. 10101/21, LIMITE, 28 June 2021, pdf)
This sets the scene for launching dedicated action against "violent left-wing and anarchist extremism and terrorism," a project which - if undertaken - would broaden the possibility for the authorities to also take action against non-violent groups and organisations on the left.
For example, the CTC argues that "[p]eaceful protests are sometimes exploited by left-wing violent extremists to create chaos and engage in violent confrontations with the authorities," opening the door to the further state surveillance of peaceful protesters who may have connections to or be "exploited" by their violent counterparts.
The comment that "[a]brasive and even shocking forms of activism as well as loud protests are part of a vibrant democracy," is unlikely to provide much reassurance to anyone who has studied the long-standing tendency of police forces to focus on the actions of left-wing groups - whether violent or not - whilst turning a blind eye to those of racists and fascists (as demonstrated, for example, by the UK's spycops scandal or the NSU scandal in Germany).
The CTC's office has taken the time to provide the member states with a wide variety of possible activities that could be undertaken against "violent left-wing anarchist extremism and terrorism".
In the discussion paper, these come under the headings of "mapping the problem", "sharing of good practices and operational cooperation" and "internet".
Suggested actions include better analysis and reporting of the extent of the problem of violent left-wing activity, improving the understanding of those who go to fight against Da'esh/ISIS in Syria (who are conflated as being terrorists or potential terrorists themselves), stepping up information-sharing on investigations into and prosecutions of violent left-wing activities, and to start requesting the removal of relevant online content.
The Terrorism Working Party will hold its discussion - and presumably take a decision on the issue - this Wednesday, 7 July.
UPDATE, 7 July 2021: The Terrorism Working Party will receive presentations from Italy, Greece and Germany, as well as Europol, the European Commission, the EU's Intelligence Centre (INTCEN) and the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator.
The agenda of the meeting (Council doc. CM 3784/1/21 REV 1, pdf) lists the discussion topic as "Violent left-wing extremism and anarchism and terrorism".
The two papers published here are also listed on the agenda.
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