New EU Strategy
In December 2005 the Council of justice ministers approved a new strategy for counter terrorism. Its main aim is to set out EU policy clearly and comprehensively for the general public. A set of slides accompanied by written details explains the strategy under four broad objectives: prevent, protect, pursue and respond.
Across these four categories, the strategy seeks to link strands from different policy areas and emphasise the close interaction of measures at member state, European and international level.
European Arrest and Evidence Warrants
The European arrest warrant, introduced in Jan 2004, replaces old extradition procedures and has been implemented in all member states, the last being Italy on 21 July 2005. A Commission report in February 2005 held it to be a success, from the fact that 104 people have been surrendered under the warrants in an average of 45 days (the previous average was 9 months). There have, however, been arguments in Germany and some other member states that implementing legislation breaches national constitutional rights (see EurActiv 19 July 2005).
The December 2005 justice Council, reached agreement on a framework decision for a European evidence warrant. This will create a standard form warrant for obtaining objects, documents and data in cross-border cases. After translation as appropriate, it will be capable of immediate execution (ie without court approval). (see EurActiv 25 Feb 2005).
Exchange of Information
Specific criminal and therefore anti-terrorist measures are within the competence of the member states only. The main role of the EU, therefore, is co-ordination and the greatest emphasis so far has been on the exchange and sharing of information among member states. A specific programme to create a legal enforcement network (LEN) which will facilitate exchange of information between police forces has been launched. Other main agencies promoting co-operation are Europol, Eurojust and latterly, the European Border Agency. Also, within the Council, a body called SitCen brings together external and internal intelligence experts to co-ordinate strategies (see interview with Gijs de Vries).
The Hague programme introduced the idea of the 'principle of availability', meaning that information available to law enforcement officers in one member state should be accessible whenever necessary by their counterparts in all other member states. The concept is to be fully defined and introduced by January 2008.
A far more complex problem is the extent to which information can be shared with third countries. The European Parliament is not happy with the agreement reached with the US on passenger name records (see EurActiv 19 March 2004).
Border and Travel Security
From 2005, biometric data is to be included in passports and, eventually, visas, which will be made computer-readable. The Schengen Information system (SIS) already stores data on persons wanted for arrest, those to be refused entry to the EU, missing persons and persons to be put under surveillance. Biometric identifiers will be stored on the second generation SIS II (see Biometrics LinksDossier).
An External Borders Agency (FRONTEX) to co-ordinate between member states, provide training for border guards and carry out risk assessments formally opened in July 2005. A proposal for a corps of external border guards is under consideration.
The Commission has also put forward proposals to extend police powers of surveillance and pursuit of suspects in border areas (see Euractiv 20 July 2005).
A proposal that telephone companies and internet providers be compelled to keep details (not including content) of all phone calls, e-mails and website visits was first put forward by the UK, France and Sweden in 2004. It did not succeed following doubts over the legal procedure used and firm rejection by Parliament. In September 2005 the Commission published a new proposed directive whereby phone call data (mobile and fixed) would be kept for one year and internet communications for 6 months. The cost of the system is to be met by member states (see EurActiv 21 Sept 2005). In parallel to this the Commission published proposals on 4 October 2005 for a framework decision on data protection, seen as necessary to balance the increased exchange of personal data between member states being necessitated by the fight against terrorism and organised crime.
CBRN/ Prevention and Readiness
Following the US anthrax scare, fears have been raised that terrorists could resort to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) weapons. In June 2003, the Commission adopted a communication on preparedness and response to biological and chemical agent attacks. DG Health has issued guidelines on the management of specific bioterrorist disease outbreaks and general guidelines for the public.
The Council has also finalised a new CBRN programme which sets out steps to be taken to prevent an attack and (were an attack to happen) to limit its consequences (i.e. risk assessment, protecting critical infrastructure and co-operation between emergency services). This will be complemented by a European programme for critical infrastructure protection and a crisis alert system to be called ARGUS. (See also EurActiv 14 Feb 2005.)
The third money laundering directive was adopted by the Council on 20 September 2005. It extends the existing provisions to terrorist crimes and is designed to reflect the recommendations of the international Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FAFT). It provides that suspicious transactions of €15000 or more must be reported to special national financial intelligence units by the bodies covered by the directive (e.g. financial institutions, accountants, lawyers, estate agents and casinos). These measures have been highly controversial. (See related Linksdossier). Further proposals:
In December 2005, the Commission put forward a communication on terrorist financing with two aims:
- develop a code of practice common amongst member states on generating and exchanging information that can lead to the cutting off of terrorist funding;
- tighten up the financial transparency and accountability practices of not-for-profit organisations through a code of conduct.
Recruitment and radicalisation
This strand of anti-terrorism policy, a new element in the 2004 action plan, is increasing in importance. Many are arguing, particularly since it was discovered that the London bombers had been living in the UK, that looking at the reasons why young men are resorting to such action is key. In September 2005, the Commission published a communication which analyses ways in which the radicalisation of individuals can be deterred through education (both in schools and through the internet), integration policies, interfaith dialogue and the promotion of inter-cultural understanding. The December 2005 Council approved a paper outlining the work in this area.
EU leaders have pledged to deal with the roots of terrorism, i.e. the social economic and political problems on which Islamic fanaticism is built. The action plan involves using trade agreements to reduce the poverty that can lead to radicalisation. Technical aid will also be given to build up anti-terrorism capacity. Work with third countries, the US in particular, and international agencies continues to be of fundamental importance.
EU action against terrorism has been predicated on the preservation of fundamental rights and liberties as enshrined by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Some of the member state actions, however, have been heavily criticised for riding roughshod over these principles and EU policies have been questioned for being overly influenced by the US, which has pushed its own approach at international level through the G8.
The Commission is advised by a network of experts on fundamental rights, made up of one expert per member state, who report annually on the state of fundamental rights in the EU and who have been critical on specific issues.
In addition, in June 2005, Commissioner Frattini announced that a European Agency for Fundamental Rights would be established by extending the remit of the existing European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. A proposal for a regulation is underway.