Terrorism, crime, migration: Nine EU agencies active because of Ukraine war

Most of the action is being taken by Europol and Frontex, which together have deployed around 280 staff to the region. Eurojust collects evidence against war crimes. The agency for the operation of large databases, on the other hand, plays a minor role.

At the end of March, the European Council called on its member states to better coordinate the reception of refugees from Ukraine. In addition to this ten-point plan and initial emergency financial aid of €668 million, the government in Kiev is being supported by individual member states in the security sector with military aid against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The EU is providing €2.5 billion for this purpose. On 25 July 2022, the European Investment Bank approved an additional €1.6 billion aid package for reconstruction.

Less well known is the support provided by EU Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) agencies, some of which are also carrying out extensive operations in Ukraine and neighbouring countries. As a „network of JHA agencies“, they published a joint statement with a „commitment to assist“ just two weeks after the war began. Some of them participate in the „Working Group on Integrated Political Crisis Response“, through which the EU aims to react on security incidents. A recently published overview describes the different activities. „Terrorism, crime, migration: Nine EU agencies active because of Ukraine war“ weiterlesen

New regulation: Europol becomes the Big Data police

Following the decision of the EU interior ministers, the new Europol law will come into force in June. The police agency will thus receive new areas of responsibility and powers.

Comparatively quickly, EU member states and the Parliament have launched a new Europol regulation. Once set up to fight drug trafficking, the agency is being given even more powers. However, the agency in The Hague is still not a „European FBI“.

At the end of 2020, the Commission had presented its proposal for the new regulation; in May this year, the three EU decision-making bodies agreed on a final version. After the Parliament, the EU interior ministers also confirmed the final version last week. Now only the publication in the Official Journal is missing, then the new law will apply. „New regulation: Europol becomes the Big Data police“ weiterlesen

New Western Balkans hub for Europol and Frontex

Although the EU agencies can now cooperate more closely with selected third countries, there have hardly been any formats for the political and strategic agreement of border police measures outside the Schengen area. Austria has now created facts for South Eastern Europe.

After a two-day „Return Conference“, Austria’s Ministry of the Interior announced on Tuesday this week further measures of the „Joint Coordination Platform“ (JCP) „against illegal migration“. The network, which is only one year old, is to conclude „flexible return partnerships“ with Western Balkan states. Behind the term are deportations of people whose request for protection in the EU has been rejected or who decide to return „voluntarily“ for this reason.

At the invitation of the Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Karner (ÖVP), the governments of 22 countries met in the Vienna Hofburg to discuss the situation on the Eastern Mediterranean route and the so-called Balkan route. Among the participants were, besides the Western Balkan third countries, numerous EU members and Switzerland as the only Schengen state. The Union was represented by the Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs, the border agency Frontex, the new Asylum Agency and the External Action Service. „New Western Balkans hub for Europol and Frontex“ weiterlesen

„Migrant smuggling“ via Belarus: Europol wanted 455 internet accounts deleted

The Internet Referral Unit in The Hague also monitors social media for the purpose of prosecuting people who help refugees. However, the removal of content is not obligatory for providers.

The EU police agency has reported at least 455 accounts on social media „promoting illegal immigration services from Belarus to Europe“ to internet companies for deletion. The information comes from a Europol press release from December last year and can now also be found in the current annual report of the Europol-based Centre against Migrant Smuggling (EMSC). The extent to which companies have complied with the reports is not known; Europol gives the number as „many“. Their compliance remains voluntary, even after the transposition deadline of the EU regulation on combating the spread of terrorist content online starts on 7 June.

The deletion requests related to fleeing via Belarus were made in cooperation with Europol’s Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) in The Hague, which is based at the anti-terrorism centre there. Shortly afterwards, EU governments agreed to extend its remit to include prohibited support for irregular migration. However, reports on „terrorism“ continue to make up the majority of the content objected to by Europol. „„Migrant smuggling“ via Belarus: Europol wanted 455 internet accounts deleted“ weiterlesen

Referral Unit at Europol: German police had thousands of internet contents removed last year

Currently, hosting providers can decide whether to voluntarily comply with removal requests in the area of „Islamist terrorism“ from Europol. From 7 June, these will become removal orders, which can be sent directly to companies by national authorities via a new platform.

With the Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU), Europol operates since 2015 a platform for tracking postings that police authorities classify as „terrorist“ or „violent extremist“. It is part of Europol’s Counter-Terrorism Centre in The Hague. So far, the reports from the EU IRU are so-called referrals, i.e. requests for deletion, which are passed on to the corresponding hosting providers.

The companies decide for themselves whether to comply with the objectionable content, but in the past it was removed immediately in most cases. In addition to providers such as Google, Meta or Apple, Telegram also cooperates with Europol and has participated in joint „action days“ on the internet since 2019, for example. „Referral Unit at Europol: German police had thousands of internet contents removed last year“ weiterlesen

Frontex and Europol: How refugees are tracked digitally

EU agencies advise increased confiscation and extraction of asylum seekers‘ mobile phones and now provide a manual on how to do so. Apps to encrypt or disguise locations are disliked in the report as „countermeasures“ to surveillance.

Often the mobile phones they carry are the only connection between refugees and their relatives and friends in their country of origin or elsewhere. They contain contacts, personal communication as well as photos and videos as a memory of the home countries. Only within the European Union is it possible to apply for asylum in its member states. Therefore, the phones are also an indispensable aid for navigating to receiving countries and finding out about conditions and support there.

Asylum seekers‘ mobile phones are also of increasing interest to authorities. As punishment for irregular entry, border guards in Greece and Croatia, and most recently at the EU’s external border with Belarus, destroy them before abandoning their owners at sea or forcibly push them back. Police forces, on the other hand, confiscate the phones in order to gain information about routes used and people helping to flee. „Frontex and Europol: How refugees are tracked digitally“ weiterlesen

Britain and Europol: Social media to remove posts by refugees

Companies such as TikTok and Facebook are to step up deletions of internet content if it could encourage the entry of irregular migrants. Calls for this came from the British Criminal Investigation Department. A department for „removal orders“ has also been set up at Europol along the same lines.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel on Saturday called on social media providers to remove posts if they „glorify“ refugee crossings. In a letter to several companies, Patel was responding to a video posted on TikTok that went viral. It showed a group of men crossing the English Channel in an inflatable boat.

According to Patel, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter should also delete „totally unacceptable clips“ if they promote „deadly crossings“. Posts from „people smugglers“, for example, had been used by the platforms to promote their services. Immigration Minister Chris Philp had already spoken to representatives of the largest internet companies earlier this year and called for ads promoting the crossings to be removed. „Britain and Europol: Social media to remove posts by refugees“ weiterlesen

Customs Union: 27 countries „work together as if they were one“

Customs authorities are seen as „gatekeepers of EU borders for the flow of goods“. They increasingly rely on „risk analysis“ and new information systems. Now the EU customs cooperation with police and border authorities will be enhanced.

Since 1968, the European Economic Community has been a Customs Union for industrial products, and from 1970 for agricultural products as well. All customs formalities at the internal borders of the member states have been dropped. Even the level of customs duties at the external borders, on which all countries had previously decided on their own responsibility, has since been regulated by a common customs tariff.
The framework for today’s EU customs union is the Union Customs Code (CCC) adopted in 1992. It provides uniform rules for customs tariffs on imports from outside the EU. The European Commission constantly proposes updated customs regulations and monitors their implementation. The Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union (TAXUD) in Brussels has responsibility for this. It also operates the tariff system (TARIC3), which displays the current rates.

Customs duties are generally paid where the goods first arrive. The revenue generated is considered the EU’s „traditional own resources“ and covers around 14 percent of its total budget. The member states retain 20 percent of this amount for expenses incurred by their customs authorities and their control activities. In 2016, for example, the EU collected around 25 billion euros in customs duties, leaving 20 billion after deduction of national expenditure. In the last three years, around four billion euros of the total revenue came from Germany. „Customs Union: 27 countries „work together as if they were one““ weiterlesen

Without mandate: EU cooperates with European secret services

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

Europol to „disrupt smuggling networks‘ online communications“

To combat terrorism, the EU police agency reports Internet content to providers for removal. These finds are not necessarily punishable. Now the Internet Referral Unit at Europol is to take stronger action against „smuggling networks“.

The police agency Europol is to have more Internet content on „migrant smuggling“ deleted. This is the conclusion of a paper on „Enhancing the response to migrant smuggling networks“ passed by the interior and justice ministers of the European Union last week.

The document is based on Council conclusions of 18 October 2018 calling for more investigations and prosecution of such activities at both national and EU level. However, the „operational set of measures“ now adopted does not have the force of law. Instead, it gathers declarations of intent for operational measures to strengthen existing instruments and create „synergies“. „Europol to „disrupt smuggling networks‘ online communications““ weiterlesen