In order for state protection departments to be able to cooperate better at EU level in the area of politically motivated crime, they need common definitions of the persons to be prosecuted. A corresponding initiative to this end comes from Germany. This way, threats are prosecuted that have not even occurred yet.
Under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, neither the Commission nor the Council has powers to coordinate intelligence services. Nevertheless, for the past five years the police agency Europol has been „exploring“ ever closer cooperation with the European „Counter Terrorism Group“ (CTG), in which the domestic services of all Schengen states work together. The EU’s „Intelligence Analysis Centre“ INTCEN in Brussels, which should actually only read secret service reports from the member states, is also being given further powers.
In order to be able to observe and, if necessary, prosecute target persons by police forces and intelligence services alike, a new category must be created. For the police traditionally deal with suspects or accused of a crime, police laws in Germany also know the category of „Gefährder“ who are accused of a concrete, perceivable danger. Intelligence work, on the other hand, is based on the mere suspicion that someone might pose a danger in the future. „Controversial term: German Ministry of the Interior sneaks „Gefährder“ into the EU“ weiterlesen
After 14 years, the Council wants to recruit a new Counter-Terrorism Coordinator. Her remit will be expanded to include hybrid threats and cybersecurity. The Commission is also creating such a post.
The member states united in the European Council want to fill the position of the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator (CTC). The Council Secretariat has sent out an internal call for applications, the deadline is 15 June. The appointment will be made by the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy after consensus in the Council. The post is limited to five years, but a single reappointment is possible.
The creation of a CTC was decided by the then EU member states after the terrorist attacks of 11 March 2004 in Madrid as part of a declaration on the fight against terrorism. It is at the highest political level of the European Union. The post was first held by the Dutchman Gijs de Vries, and in 2007 the Belgian Gilles de Kerchove was appointed. „Council and Commission: EU seeks two high-level security coordinators“ weiterlesen
Although this violates EU treaties, the police agency Europol is to cooperate closely with secret services. This involves lists of suspicious persons originating from third countries. The individuals listed there will then be discreetly searched for throughout Europe.
In fact, the European Union has no competence to coordinate the secret services of the Member States. In the case of Germany, this would also violate the principle of separating the tasks of police and services. Nevertheless, the German EU Presidency is now for the first time pushing for operational cooperation coordinated by Europol.
The German proposal for a „coordinated approach“ deals with covert searches for persons under Article 36 of the SIS II Council Decision, which are based on lists of secret services such as the USA, but also from North Africa or the Western Balkans. They are to be entered into the Schengen Information System (SIS II), to which third countries do not have access. Only the 26 EU Member States involved, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland may issue such alerts. „German proposal: Prohibited EU secret service cooperation through the back door“ weiterlesen
European police authorities have numerous applications for communication and information exchange. Member States are now developing another platform for large-scale police operations and terrorist attacks. The European domestic secret services have a similar system.
Several European police authorities are developing a new system for the exchange of information in real time. Under the name „Quick Response for Operational Centers“ (QROC), the affiliated units are to coordinate their response following a terrorist attack. The instrument could also be used to provide support in case of major events and crises. Several Member States are currently looking for appropriate solutions, and corresponding efforts are also being made in the context of the Corona crisis.
According to the project’s website, the exchange of data on events and persons possibly involved could subsequently be carried out via the so-called „Swedish Initiative“. The Council Framework Decision of 2006 sets short deadlines for the cross-border transfer of personal data. It would also be possible to use the Prüm Framework, which enables the responsible services throughout Europe to query biometric data or data on vehicle owners. „EU police forces plan new information system“ weiterlesen
In the Schengen Information System, police and secret services may, inter alia, issue alerts for secret monitoring. Authorities from non-EU states can now have searches carried out via a detour. The German government remains silent about the exact role of its own secret service.
The Schengen Information System (SIS) is the largest European database, which has been used for 25 years by border, police, customs or immigration authorities and secret services. Today’s SIS II involves 26 EU Member States (all except Ireland and Cyprus) as well as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. As of 1 January 2020, more than 90 million people and objects were stored. Most of the entries, which increase every year, come from Italy, followed by France and Germany. The number of searches is also growing rapidly, with almost seven billion of them reported last year. That is about 220 searches per second.
Each Member State is responsible for the accuracy of its entries and must respect deadlines for deletion. Information that is stored in SIS II may also come from third countries, which is part of the normal practice of police forces and secret services. Last year, however, the European Union launched a pilot project to extend these entries to selected „trusted third countries“ and to find a uniform procedure for handling them. „EU opens its biggest database for secret services from third countries“ weiterlesen
30 European domestic secret services cooperate with the foreign services Mossad and CIA. With other authorities of the „Five Eyes“, the „Club de Berne“ exchanges information on „non-Islamic terrorism“ and „right-wing and left-wing extremism“. Governments like Germany have so far kept these details secret.
The „Club de Berne“, in which directors of domestic secret services of the EU member states as well as Norway and Switzerland are organized, has grown into a worldwide network. Jan Jirát and Lorenz Naegeli report this in the online edition of the Swiss „Wochenzeitung“, citing a secret document dated 2011. The „Club de Berne“ is thus involved in an international exchange of information with authorities in several continents.
The informal „Club de Berne“ was founded in 1969 by initially nine heads of secret services. Even then, following research by Aviva Guttmann, the European services cooperated with Israeli partners Shin Bet and Mossad as well as the US FBI. The networking was done via a cable system called „Kilowatt“. „Secret documents: European domestic intelligence services networking worldwide“ weiterlesen
An audit report of the „Club de Berne“ finds serious deficiencies in the Austrian domestic intelligence service. Its IT systems were not approved for secret information. The authority should also ensure that it is not infiltrated by „extremist organisations“.
The Austrian Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Fight against Terrorism (BVT) is regarded as a security gap for European intelligence cooperation. This is the conclusion reached by the European „Club de Berne“ in an audit report. The document classified as „secret“ was leaked to the daily newspaper „Österreich“ and published.
Following an intervention by the government in Vienna, however, the editorial staff took essential parts offline again, and the public prosecutor’s office is now investigating for „treason of state secrets“. Netzpolitik.org was able to inspect the report, the authenticity of which was confirmed by the current Minister of the Interior, Wolfgang Peschorn. It contains 156 „observations“, „recommendations“, „advice“ and „expectations“. „Secret document: „Club de Berne“ criticises member in Austria for possible extremism“ weiterlesen
Although the Lisbon Treaty excludes intelligence cooperation, European domestic services cooperate with Europol and a Situation Centre in Brussels. Next week, the Justice and Home Affairs Council will discuss extending this questionable practice.
The European Union intends to further intensify cooperation with the Counter Terrorism Group (CTG). At the forthcoming meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in Brussels, the group will once again present a report on cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Afterwards, an „exchange of ideas“ is planned. Because two non-EU states are also organised in the CTG, the Justice and Home Affairs Council will take place in the so-called Schengen format with Switzerland and Norway.
The secret services group has been regularly invited to the Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers for the past four years. Its last report took place at the joint meeting in June. Topics included returning combatants from countries such as Syria and Iraq and the need to decrypt telecommunications. The CTG also reported plans to extend its tasks, currently limited to Islamist terrorism, to other areas. „Without mandate: EU cooperates with European secret services“ weiterlesen
For cross-border cooperation, Europe’s secret services or their responsible ministries join together in non-transparent formats. These networks are difficult to monitor and control.
„Club de Berne“ and CTG
One of the most important cooperations is the „Club de Berne“, in which domestic intelligence services of all other EU member states as well as Norway and Switzerland participate. The „Club de Berne“ was founded in 1969 as an annual meeting of the directors of Western European domestic intelligence services. In 2001, the association founded a „Counter Terrorism Group“ (CTG), in which members regularly exchange information on incidents and discuss follow-up measures. Since 1 July 2016, the Bern Club and its CTG are running an „operational platform“ in The Hague. The domestic intelligence services there maintain a common database and a real-time information system. Details are secret, so parliamentary control of the activities in The Hague is hardly possible. The CTG is supposed to network more closely with police structures of the EU or individual member states, and „soundings“ have been underway with Europol since spring 2016. „How European secret services organise themselves in „groups“ and „clubs““ weiterlesen
The domestic secret services in Schengen states exchange real-time data on terrorism and operate a database of individuals. A Dutch review of the cooperation has revealed several deficits. The data protection commissioners in the member states involved thus need to work together to ensure oversight.
For almost two years, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) has been cooperating with 29 European intelligence services on an “operational platform” in The Hague. The system belongs to the “Counter Terrorism Group” founded in 2001 by the “Club de Berne”, the informal group of domestic secret services of EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland. The services involved operate a real-time information system and a shared database. The focus is on Islamist terrorism. The authorities do not only cooperate virtually, but also send liaison officers to The Hague. „Dutch Review Committee sees shortcomings in cooperation between European secret services“ weiterlesen